Chauncey DeVega

Republicans try to claim MLK as an ally — but if he were here, they'd despise him

Books possess great power. Those who own only a few, yet return to them like old friends for wisdom, comfort and knowledge, or to revisit a special memory, know this to be true. Those of us who have many books — who read and and reread them and carefully compile our collections — know this also.

Our books are a type of biography in themselves, an accounting of our lives. I take my books very seriously. People know not to ask if they can borrow any of my books.

The number of books a person owns reveals little about their understanding of the power of literacy and books. For too many people who have huge libraries, the whole project is one of social signaling and bourgeois habitus.

One of my most personally important books is an early edition of "The Black Book." This landmark work was edited by Middleton A. Harris, Ernest Smith, Morris Levitt and Roger Furman, with a foreword by Toni Morrison. My mother purchased "The Black Book" for a community college course and wanted to make sure that I read it. I was seven or eight years old at the time.

All these years later is sits prominently on a bookshelf that I walk by many times each day. If there was a fire, I would grab my "Black Book," along with a handful of other prized possessions, as I ran out the door.

My copy of "The Black Book" is old, tattered and yellowing. Several pages are missing. The book has no monetary value. Its power and value cannot be measured in such terms. "The Black Book" reinforced for its readers that we, Black Americans and others of the Black diaspora, have a history and experience as a people that white supremacy, the white gaze and white power in its many forms could not erase.

Beyond important historical facts, narratives and other information, "The Black Book" (and other work in that tradition and spirit) served as a kind of shield against the many big and small lies of white supremacy and white racism that can diminish and crush the way Black folks (and other people of color) imagine their own possibilities and reality — and this remains true decades after the civil rights movement.

In many ways, America was built on white supremacist lies about Black and brown people. Those lies have not been exorcised; they still have great power and many people believe them today. The social institutions those lies helped create and legitimate still exist. The Jim Crow Republicans and other neofascists are empowered by racist and white supremacist lies.

On this holiday weekend set aside to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Freedom Struggle, Republicans and other "conservatives" will deploy their racist and white supremacist lies (as they have done for decades) to diminish the meaning of Dr. King's struggle and sacrifice

According to their deranged worldview, Dr. King is a Reagan Republican and Christian nationalist, and a neoliberal gangster capitalist who supports deregulation, privatization and gun culture. This alternate reality version of Dr. King also stands against "wokeness" and "Black Lives Matter." His legacy has been "stolen," we are told, by the Democrats and the "Black establishment" as a means to "oppress" the Black community. Moreover, the Democratic Party is a "plantation," and Dr. King's memory and legacy are being used by Democrats, liberals and "Black elites" to keep Black Americans "mentally enslaved" and "not thinking for themselves."

This white supremacist disinformation campaign is part of a much larger, and in fact global, fascist project meant to convince white Americans that they are the "real" victims of racism and that simultaneously they are losing "their country" — a country where they control every dominant social, political, economic and cultural institution.

Public opinion polls and other research have consistently shown that agreement with such values and beliefs is heavily predictive of support for and allegiance to Donald Trump, the Republican Party and the larger white right.

As expected, the Republican fascists and their allies and agents are using Dr. King's life and legacy as one of the newest weapons in their moral panic over "critical race theory." The true goal of this assault on reality is to make it illegal to teach the real history of American racism and the color line.

The real Martin Luther King Jr. — as opposed to the de-radicalized, deracinated, distorted, whitewashed and commodified figure now used to sell all manner of consumer goods, was a civil rights leader, a hope warrior and a martyr. He was also a democratic socialist. The real Dr. King opposed militarism and nationalism. He stood with the powerless and oppressed against the powerful. He supported affirmative action, reparations for white-on-Black chattel slavery and Jim Crow, a guaranteed minimum income and other substantive material and other attempts to ameliorate America's long history of injustice against Black Americans and other people of color. The real King supported social democracy.

The real Martin Luther King Jr. would without a doubt have supported the scholarly framework known as critical race theory and its conclusions about inequality and America's social and political institutions. The real Martin Luther King Jr. would have stood firm against the forces of Trumpism, American neofascism, white supremacy, and the white right and "conservative" movement more broadly. Leaders of those movements would have found him an implacable enemy.

At the time of his assassination, King was one of the most unpopular major figures in the United States — as he would be today, were he were alive. Many white liberals and "moderates" would view him with mistrust and disdain for speaking too much truth about their complicity with white supremacy and other forms of injustice.

In 1963, Dr. King wrote in his famous "Letter From Birmingham Jail":

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the White moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice.

This is the second Martin Luther King Jr. holiday since Donald Trump and his Republican fascists attempted a coup on Jan. 6, 2021, with the ultimate goal of terminating America's multiracial democracy.

Last year, I wrote the following here at Salon about Dr. King, Jan. 6, and America's imperiled democracy:

The real Dr. King would demand that substantive justice be done and that Donald Trump, his coup plotters, enablers and foot soldiers, and those others who participated in a lethal attack on the Capitol be held accountable. Such an outcome is not vengeance; it is justice.
Dr. King, who was a product of the Black Christian prophetic tradition of resistance and love and social justice, said this: "Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning."
He also said, "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."
As the crimes of the Age of Trump are investigated and punishments meted out, the American people would be wise to heed Dr. King's wisdom. We have ignored it far too long.

One year later, where are we? The answer is that matters are more dire. America is in a moment of interregnum, with fascism and white supremacy in the ascendant. Republican fascists and their movement are threatening a second civil war and terrorist insurgency. Republicans will likely regain control of Congress after the midterm elections this November, and could well retake the presidency as well in 2024. Donald Trump and his cabal have yet to be punished for their crimes against the Constitution and the rule of law, and to all appearances never will be.

In this moment of democracy crisis, America needs hope warriors and other freedom fighters who are prepared for a long struggle, one in which the pendulum will swing between hope and despair, optimism and nightmares, terror and elation many times over.

In a 2012 interview, theologian James Cone reflected on what could be learned from Dr. King and Malcolm X about such struggles:

But as long as people have hope, they struggle. If they only have nightmare, if they only have despair, they won't struggle. So, even in Malcolm you got hope, because you wouldn't have him articulating so strongly, so powerfully unless there was hope in the articulation itself. So, while King expresses the hope, he also articulates despair too. King and Malcolm have each other in each other and that's true of all groups who are struggling for justice. You have one group that's going to emphasize the negative side and one that's going to emphasize the positive side, but both have both. Because it ain't all positive and King knew that — that's why he was fighting. And it ain't all negative, Malcolm knew that, that's why he was talking. Otherwise, he wouldn't be talking to his people if there was not hope, if they, through his discourse, wouldn't be empowered about the situation in which they found themselves in.

With his prophetic wisdom and vision, Dr. King warned us that America could be destroyed by racism, white supremacy and other societal ills. As our democracy weakens even further day by day, his prophecy looks to be coming true in real time.

The arc of the moral universe may indeed be long, but the challenge is this: Do the American people have the will at this time to bend it more fully towards democracy and justice, in what will likely be a decades-long battle against fascism and white supremacy? Or have too many Americans already surrendered, before the battle has even been joined?

The Jan. 6 anniversary: How the media failed — and still can't admit it

It is difficult if not impossible to solve a problem when one lacks the language to properly describe and understand it. That problem is made worse if the language is available but people refuse to use it.

In the Age of Trump, too many members of the American mainstream news media and the larger political class have either forgotten or never learned that commonsense wisdom.

In a recent interview with historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, bestselling author and intelligence expert Malcolm Nance described this situation:

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow recently tweeted that we're in collective denial. That we are standing on the precipice. That the American experiment is about to end. I have been screaming this from the rooftops.
As for the news media, they're not like ostriches with their heads in the sand. They are literally living a pie-in-the-sky life where, if you live in New York City and Donald Trump does horrible things, the bodega still has flowers. You can still go and get a sandwich in 2 in the morning. You can still get an Uber. It's almost like we would require to have the American version of the Blitz occur.
I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Philadelphia. And one of the first things I learned about in my early tweens period was the Holocaust. I have twice been invited to speak at Auschwitz, and at the last conference I went to, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation was questioning whether the world was going back into an authoritarian era where we could see pogroms again.
I've watched this happen in other countries and I see the dominoes start to fall over in my own country. I think we are in a very dangerous state. We have 10 months to wake up because the November 2022 elections will determine whether America descends rapidly into authoritarianism and quite possibly dictatorship.
America's mainstream news media bears a great amount of responsibility for the Age of Trump and the country's escalating democracy crisis. Instead of consistently sounding the alarm and warning the American people and the world about the existential threat represented by Donald Trump and his movement, for years the mainstream media chose to normalize it.

When the prominent voices among the country's mainstream news media finally admitted to themselves the reality of how dangerous Trump and his neofascist movement were and are, it was already too late. The fascist tide was rising uncontrollably.

Despite all available evidence to the contrary, America's mainstream news media and other trusted public voices were committed to the fiction that once Joe Biden was president somehow everything would be OK. In their minds, "normalcy" and "tradition" would bring the madness of Trump and his political cult to heel. Of course the events of Jan. 6 and beyond exposed those childish fantasies as the hollow hopes and dreams common to elites in a failing democracy.

The one-year anniversary of Jan. 6 was marked by hundreds (if not thousands) of thinkpieces, personal essays, reflections, news items and reporting of various kinds. But in the aggregate, what was not said or written about Jan. 6 was arguably more important than what was said and written.

The word "fascism" was, for the most part, not used. In essence, the most powerful and accurate language to describe Trumpism and the threat to democracy it represents was erased from America's public discourse in these discussions. This is congruent with the fact that "fascism" was not broadly or consistently used by the mainstream news media during Trump's presidency. "Authoritarianism" is sometimes used, which may be accurate but is unspecific, or the even vaguer term "populism."

The terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol is still frequently described as a "riot," when in reality that event was instigated and announced weeks if not months earlier, and to a significant degree was planned and coordinated rather than spontaneous.

Trump's attack force is often described as "insurrectionists," as opposed to a blunter term such as "terrorists" or "traitors." The words "cabal" and "conspiracy" were hardly used at all to describe those who planned the attack.

In reality, the Trump regime and its agents, across the country and on all levels of government, worked to overthrow America's multiracial democracy by nullifying the 2020 presidential election and installing Donald Trump as de facto dictator. Evidence of these criminal acts continues to grow on a daily and weekly basis.

By almost all definitions and commonsense understandings, the Trump regime and its forces were a cabal involved in a conspiracy against American democracy, one intended to subvert the Constitution and the rule of law, and to defy the will of the American people. When the mainstream media refuses to use such language with any consistency, it downplays the dire and ongoing threat that the Republican fascist movement and the larger white right represent.

Donald Trump's neofascist Republican Party and personality cult, the current American "conservative" movement and the larger white right are part of a global campaign to secure permanent white (male) power and privilege and control over all aspects of life. If they achieve their goals here in America, multiracial democracy would be effectively dead. The rights and freedoms of a large majority of the population — women, nonwhite people, LGBTQ people, those with disabilities, Muslims, Jews, the poor, non-Christians and whoever else is deemed to be the Other — would be rolled back or extinguished.

Jan. 6, 2021, was a landmark moment in this revolutionary-reactionary struggle for world domination. Instead of properly locating Trump's coup attempt in that context, the American mainstream news media continues to describe it as mostly an isolated event. Where were the critical self-reflections, self-recriminations and apologies for the mainstream media's many failures during the Age of Trump, as crystallized on that day a year ago? I saw few examples that would qualify.

Perhaps even more troubling, the media continues to use a narrative frame of "surprise" and "shock" to describe Trump's coup attempt and his followers' attack on the Capitol. I described this in a previous essay for Salon:

Yet a full year after Trump's coup attempt, many members of the chattering class and the commentariat — the vast majority of whom are white — still describe the events of that day as "unimaginable," "unbelievable" or "shocking." Such language, and such patterns of thought, reveal a deep unwillingness to grapple with and accept the truth about American's centuries-long history of white-on-Black (and white-on-brown) political violence.
Too many of these public voices have chosen to remain ignorant of their own country's history, and in doing so have passed along that ignorance to the very public they supposedly serve. This denial also explains why so many members of the media and political class refuse to comprehend the existential threat to American democracy represented by Republican fascists and the larger right-wing movement.
To properly confront the origins and implications of Trump and the Republican fascists' assault on democracy would demand an interrogation of white privilege and white identity — and asking hard questions about the relationship between what it means to be "American" and what it means to be "white." Such questions require disrupting and challenging the big and little lies that sustain whiteness as an identity, and the assumption that those who embrace it are inherently good, noble and innocent

What of the right-wing propaganda disinformation machine and echo chamber? Its propagandists and professional liars chose either to ignore the Jan. 6 anniversary or to process the Capitol attack through the Big Lie as a story of white victimhood and white oppression, where white Trumpist "patriots" are now "political prisoners" or even "martyrs" in a war against the "tyrannical" Joe Biden, the "socialist" Democrats and the monstrous forces of "wokeness." Ultimately, Jan. 6 will become a rallying cry and symbol used to encourage more right-wing political violence and, in all probability, a second coup attempt in the future.

As if succumbing to an addiction, some leading national publications defaulted to the obsolescent and dangerous habit of using "both sides" language, describing the events of Jan. 6 and the escalating attacks on American democracy by the Republican-fascist movement and its agents as evidence of a "divided nation" or "polarization" between "blue" and "red" realities. Some mainstream media outlets even featured contributions from Trump enablers and other fascist sympathizers, in search of "balance" and the need for a "range of opinions."

That is a symptom of a much bigger problem: Throughout the Age of Trump, the mainstream media has largely avoided stating the plain facts: It is the Republican fascists and their white supremacist movement that are committed to overthrowing democracy. That attack is unidirectional; the Democrats are attempting to protect democracy (however ineffectively), not destroy it.

The media's task should have been (and continues to be) making complex issues more legible, empowering the American people to make better and more responsible decisions about democracy, speaking with moral clarity, and consistently telling uncomfortable truths about the rise of neofascism and the existential threat it represents. Going forward, that task has become even more urgent if the forces of neofascism are to be defeated, in this country and around the world.

A recent opinion column at the Arizona Republic summarized this:

Rarely in our history have the lines between right and wrong been so evident — and rarely has it been so incumbent upon journalism to make those lines clear. Yes, there are stories that are best told by presenting readers, viewers and listeners the facts and letting them make up their minds. We report, you decide, or whatever the old wink-and-a-nod Fox News slogan was.
This is not one of them.
Think back to Jan. 6. Think of the hours after the attack began. Think of darkness falling on a chilly day in Washington, D.C. Think of the eerie lights of the Capitol set against that encroaching darkness — and the silhouettes of the mob that had forced its way in, intent on doing damage and maybe worse. Think of how that felt.
Now think of the responsibility it demands.
We have learned, in the last year, a lot about how dangerous to democracy the Jan. 6 attack really was — even more dangerous than we thought. We have learned more about Trump's involvement and reaction.
A lot of that we've learned through good journalism. We will continue to learn more. Some people will ignore the facts laid out in front of them. OK. Some readers will disagree. So will some viewers. OK. No business sets out to lose customers, but this is more important. This is at the core of what journalism does. This is telling the truth, and if people don't listen, tell it louder. Then tell it again.
Journalists shouldn't do this work as if their jobs depended on it. They should do it as if the country depended on it. Because it does.

My expectations are less hopeful. As Republicans and their allies cement more control over American government and society — likely regaining Congress in the 2022 midterms and perhaps the White House in 2024 — many members of the establishment news media (especially Beltway-style "access journalists") will choose to collaborate with the new political order. They will justify their decision through various mental gymnastics: They did this for reasons of "survival" or "safety," or to provide a "voice of reason" and serve as a "conduit for truth." For the more honest, it will be clear they made a mercenary decision, in search of money, career advancement, social capital and prestige.

In the end, those members of the news media and other elites who are not telling the truth about Jan. 6, the Republican fascists and America's democracy crisis now, when it's relatively easy to do so, certainly will not do so later, when it becomes much more difficult and dangerous. How those with public voices chose to speak about the Jan. 6 anniversary offers a preview of what they will say and do later, as democracy crumbles and the Republican fascists seize power.

We're still trapped in a bad fascist-coup movie — and it's heading toward a dark anticlimax

Just over a year ago, Donald Trump and his allies tried to stage a coup against American democracy. This was something new in American history, but in another sense it was typical: It was the next stage in the collapse of a failing democracy.

As I explained in an earlier essay for Salon, the Trump coup attempt was quite "unique" in that it was publicly announced years in advance and organized in plain sight, with more than enough warning that it could have easily been stopped from occurring. In practical terms, many members of America's political class, news media and other elites allowed the coup attempt to take place, either through negligence or tacit consent.

Trump's attempt to overthrow American democracy (which continues) is atypical in another important way: In the year since Jan. 6, 2021, the American people and the world have learned a great deal about almost every aspect of Trump's coup plot and the Capitol attack.

In her newsletter Lucid, historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat recently explained many of the central or common factors involved in coup attempts, whether successful or otherwise. She begins with the observation that "controlling the flow of information" is crucial, especially when the coup fails and damage control is necessary:

Coups involve secrecy and speed. Their power lies in the element of surprise — the shock of the unthinkable happening, and happening fast. ... The conspiratorial element of coups means we are not often privy to the details of their planning. If the coup is successful, it may become part of the origin story of the new national collective. Then a leader may release details about it to enhance his reputation for daring and bravery. This was the case with Muammar Gaddafi, who planned his 1969 coup for years and was its undisputed author.
What if the leader who comes to power via coup was the last person to come on board, either because of his cautious nature (Francisco Franco) or because the coup's instigators did not fully trust him (Augusto Pinochet)? Then it can take a long time for the truth to come out….
When coups fail, the government that survived the coup attempt might release information in order to turn public opinion against the plotters and justify whatever punishments are meted out.

Many questions remain unanswered about the Trump regime's attempt to overthrow American democracy. If we hope to save American democracy and ensure some measure of justice is served, the truth will need to be revealed. At some point in the future, the House Jan. 6 special committee, various whistleblowers, Department of Justice investigations, journalists, documentarians, scholars and other researchers will have compiled something close to a full accounting of the Trump regime's coup attempt.

That's an entirely separate question from whether Donald Trump and the high-level planners and plotters of his coup will ever face proper accountability or punishment for their crimes against democracy. The answer to that question is probably not.

In all, a type of surreality and malignant normalcy took hold over America during the Age of Trump, and its hold has endured into Joe Biden's presidency. The events of Jan. 6 were the middle act in a much bigger story that now includes the Big Lie, a feeling of impending doom emanating from the Republican fascist movement, the growing threat of sustained right-wing violence or even low-level civil war, and our status as a society where reality, facts and truth are no longer agreed upon because the Republicans and their enablers have undermined any such consensus.

In so many ways, Jan. 6 and the Age of Trump have shattered the myths that many Americans have long entertained about themselves and their country.

Those myths and narratives come from many sources, but America is a society where the dream merchants and fantasy manufacturers of Hollywood (and the mass media more generally) exercise almost unlimited power to shape the collective imagination of the public. The result is that Americans, for decades, "have been amusing themselves to death". Too many of us have lost the capacity to distinguish mass media fantasies (including online and other digital spaces) from reality and its painful truths.

To wit. On Jan. 6 of last year, there were no Special Forces commandos, Secret Service assault teams or FBI hostage rescue units making a dramatic assault on the Capitol Building — as would have happened in a Hollywood movie — ready to fight off Trump's terrorist mob and keep the members of Congress and other innocent people safe from harm.

Instead, it was rank-and-file Capitol police officers and other members of law enforcement who exemplified great courage in attempting to do that dangerous work. They were understaffed and unprepared, and ultimately could not keep Trump's rage-fueled attack force from breaching the building's defenses and running amok in an apparent hunt for Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other perceived enemies.

In the real world, there was no national leader who rose to the occasion, placing Trump and his cabal under arrest, delivering a rousing speech about the true values of American democracy and perhaps declaring the sixth of January as a new national holiday, a second Independence Day.

This was not "Seven Days in May" or some other Cold War-era thriller featuring a seemingly perfect plot to overthrow the government, only stopped by the actions of a few courageous souls. There was no moment on Jan. 6 or afterward when "principled" Republicans joined en masse with Democrats to save American democracy by denouncing Trump, his cabal and their movement, and unmasking the full scale of the coup plot.

In reality, Republicans in the House, only hours after the coup attempt, still voted to nullify the 2020 presidential election, standing with the coup leader and against legitimate democracy.

There have been no televised trials or hearings about the Trump regime's coup attempt, and no serious efforts to punish the wrongdoers to the maximum extent of the law. There has been no closure, no public exhalation of relief and no sense that the coup was conclusively defeated. The threat from Trump and his movement is escalating, and the coup has not been stopped: If anything, it is gaining momentum on the state and local level. Republicans will likely win control of the House this fall, and could well win the Senate as well. A return to the White House in 2024 is distinctly possible. If Republicans cannot use voter exclusion and other Jim Crow-style anti-democratic tactics to win that election, they may launch another coup — and that one will be far more likely to succeed.

Consider the fascinating and, at times, undeniably entertaining characters of TrumpWorld. Donald Trump himself is a reality TV star and pro wrestling "heel" who somehow became president. He has surrounded himself with other characters straight from central casting, including corrupt consigliere Roger Stone and "America's mayor" Rudy Giuliani, now a grossly incompetent go-between and a legal adviser of dubious skill and wisdom.

It's easy to laugh, but we cannot overlook those smart and very dangerous foes of democracy such as Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Stephen Miller, John Eastman, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and numerous others. There are also the lesser-known true believers and ideologues who lurk in the shadows of think tanks, interest groups, academia, business and finance, the news media, right-wing evangelical churches, paramilitaries and "tactical culture," military and veterans groups, and elsewhere in the private sector and the world of public policy and consulting.

In total, Jan. 6 and its anticlimactic outcome offer a portrait of American society seemingly filtered not through Hollywood blockbusters but through the artistic visions of Jim Jarmusch, Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Lumet and John Schlesinger. But none of this is a movie the American people can switch off or walk away from. It is entirely too real. Denial, exhaustion, learned helplessness or just flat-out surrender can offer no salvation.

The ridiculous and surreal aspects of Jan. 6 and its aftermath do nothing to diminish the peril America now faces. Indeed, fascism and other forms of civic evil do their work by making the unthinkable, the ridiculous and the seemingly impossible appear both normal and acceptable. We are almost there now. Jan. 6 was just one important landmark on that journey.

Many Americans are blithely ignoring the dire warning signs of fascism's rise

In America (and around the world) the year 2021 was one of great sadness and frustration. By many indications, 2022 may be even worse.

America's democracy crisis continues to escalate. The alarm is blaring but the American people, for the most part, continue to ignore it. Last Jan. 6, Donald Trump and his regime attempted a coup with the goal of nullifying the results of the 2020 presidential election and, in effect, ending American democracy. In many respects, Trump's coup attempt was atypical, if not wholly unique.

It was publicly announced by Donald Trump and his agents months or even years in advance. Despite those warnings, law enforcement officials and national security leaders did little to prepare for it. Most of the mainstream news media and pundit class did not take the threat seriously, instead choosing to mock those truth-tellers who kept sounding the alarm.

Nearly a year after the attack, Donald Trump and the other high-level planners and conspirators have not been punished, and remain free to continue plotting the overthrow of American democracy. As has been widely observed, the Trump regime's coup attempt may be the least-punished such high crime in recent history.

Even Trump's foot soldiers have not been punished to the full extent of the law for their participation in the Capitol attack. While some have faced prosecution, the Justice Department has acted with great restraint.

Some "good news": Donald Trump's coup attempt was an example of what experts on authoritarianism and democracy describe as an attempt at an "autocratic breakthrough." Most democracies quickly fall before such assaults. This one was repelled, which is something of a unique accomplishment.

In other ways, the Trump regime's coup attempt was not so unusual. As in other places and times in history, Trump's loyalists are continuing with their efforts, both through more or less legal means and otherwise. When a coup fails the first time, the second attempt is usually successful. All of this is happening in real time and in plain sight, with minimal attempt at deception. For the American people and their responsible leaders to ignore such threats is a willful choice.

What warnings should we be heeding now? In a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, retired U.S. Army generals Paul D. Eaton, Antonio M. Taguba and Steven M. Anderson are sounding the alarm about the possibility of a second civil war in the aftermath of a future presidential election, if Donald Trump or another Republican refuses to accept the results:

We — all of us former senior military officials — are increasingly concerned about the aftermath of the 2024 presidential election and the potential for lethal chaos inside our military, which would put all Americans at severe risk….
Imagine competing commanders in chief — a newly reelected Biden giving orders, versus Trump (or another Trumpian figure) issuing orders as the head of a shadow government. Worse, imagine politicians at the state and federal levels illegally installing a losing candidate as president.
All service members take an oath to protect the U.S. Constitution. But in a contested election, with loyalties split, some might follow orders from the rightful commander in chief, while others might follow the Trumpian loser. Arms might not be secured depending on who was overseeing them. Under such a scenario, it is not outlandish to say a military breakdown could lead to civil war.
In this context, with our military hobbled and divided, U.S. security would be crippled. Any one of our enemies could take advantage by launching an all-out assault on our assets or our allies.

This is but the most recent in a series of public warnings by America's senior national security leadership, both before and after Jan. 6, about the spiraling danger of a new civil war, a right-wing insurgency and other forms of terrorism and political violence. Such warnings are without precedent in modern American history and highlight the extreme peril the country now faces from the Republican fascist movement.

It has also been reported that military leaders were seriously concerned that Trump might order the National Guard to intervene on his behalf on or around Jan. 6 by invoking the Insurrection Act. If he had given such an order, the country would have come dangerously closer to an authoritarian takeover and perhaps widespread violence, with elements of the military battling one another. Experts on civil war have warned that the U.S. is well along such a path.

Domestic terrorism experts have also warned that right-wing extremists and paramilitary groups are organizing on the local and state level to intimidate, harass and target "liberals," Black and brown people, Muslims, Jews, immigrant communities and others deemed to be their enemies. This is part of a nationwide campaign by Republican fascists and the larger white right to attack American democracy on the local and state level in order to facilitate Trump's return to power (or the "election" of his designated successor).

It is reasonable to feel angry about the American people's apparent passivity in the face of these obvious threats against democracy. But the more important question is why they are responding that way, and what that tells us about the health of American democracy and political culture? In essence, why do so many people simply not care?

There are many explanations. Most Americans do not follow politics closely. They also do understand it very well. As we approach the one-year anniversary of Jan. 6, opinion polls show that fewer people are paying attention to the investigation into those events.

This is not, in itself, surprising. A large percentage of Americans, if not a majority, do not closely follow the news. At least half the population cannot read at a sixth-grade level. The average American's understanding of politics also ebbs and flows, most obviously in response to shared crises or calamities, but also in response to those events that the news media and leading political figures focus on most intensely. In this case, if the Democrats and others who support democracy do not consistently highlight the existential threat posed by the Republican-fascist movement, then most Americans will not pay attention.

American voters are also strikingly poor at attributing responsibility to the correct political leaders or parties for their policy failures. Most people receive information about current events from a trusted network that may include friends, relatives, community leaders, clergy members, favored politicians and media voices and, increasingly, social media such as Facebook or Instagram. Such a network is likely to be insular and inaccurate, serving as a type of echo chamber — especially for Republicans and "conservatives."

In an era of extreme right-wing asymmetrical polarization and negative partisanship, disinformation and a coordinated assault on truth and reality, as well as an overall culture of spectacle, unrestrained consumerism, cruelty and endless distraction, many Americans lack the capacity to make informed and responsible political and social decisions.

A large percentage of Americans believe (quite correctly) that the country's political elites and other leaders have failed in their responsibilities to society and are increasingly detached from the experiences of everyday Americans. This reflects a 60-year trend of declining faith and trust in the country's leaders and the legitimacy of "the system."

There is also a worrisome decline in the American people's faith in democracy itself, especially among younger people. A recent poll by Grinnell College offers additional context about the deep political and cultural divides that are driving the country's democracy crisis:

The poll shows incredibly few Americans (7%) have high trust in the federal government to offer good ideas to solve problems facing their communities. Even among Democrats, whose party currently holds the White House and the majority in both houses of Congress, only 14% say they have high trust in the federal government.
Americans were somewhat more likely to have high trust in state governors (25%) and city or county elected leaders (19%) to offer good ideas to solve problems in their communities. In both cases, only a minority of Americans had high trust in elected officials.

"Trust in political institutions is the glue that holds democracies together and allows them to weather crises over time," said Grinnell political scientist Danielle Lussier. "While there will always be some skepticism toward the government, when a majority of people express distrust in elected officials, the legitimacy of the constitutional order is called into question."

Further analysis reveals the depth of partisan division: While doctors, scientists and teachers are highly trusted by Democratic voters, "among Republicans, doctors are highly trusted by only 48%, scientists by 28%, and teachers by 31%. Republicans place high trust in police officers (65%) but only 22% of Democrats have that same level of trust."

"Americans lack a collective sense of whom to trust," Lussier said, which "helps to explain why it is so hard to build a consensus for solving the country's problems."

Perhaps most important of all, for at least the last 50 years right-wing libertarians and other extremists have advanced a strategy to undermine faith in American democracy and the idea of government itself. This has created a space for right-wing political entrepreneurs to expand their power and influence by convincing large portions of the white American public that democratic government is illegitimate if it does not secure continued white supremacy.

In total, Americans are collectively experiencing a moment of social and political alienation, in which many of their fellow citizens are willingly surrendering to the forces of demobilization and authoritarianism.

Philosopher and political theorist Sheldon Wolin described such a moment in his book "Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism":

Antidemocracy does not take the form of overt attacks upon the idea of government by the people. Instead, politically it means encouraging what I have earlier dubbed "civic demobilization," conditioning an electorate to being aroused for a brief spell, controlling its attention span, and then encouraging distraction or apathy. The intense pace of work and the extended working day, combined with job insecurity, is a formula for political demobilization, for privatizing the citizenry. It works indirectly. Citizens are encouraged to distrust their government and politicians; to concentrate upon their own interests; to begrudge their taxes; and to exchange active involvement for symbolic gratifications of patriotism, collective self-righteousness, and military prowess. Above all, depoliticization is promoted through society's being enveloped in an atmosphere of collective fear and of individual powerlessness: fear of terrorists, loss of jobs, the uncertainties of pension plans, soaring health costs, and rising educational expenses.

Ultimately, who is to blame for the American public's passivity in the face of an escalating neofascist threat? Of course Republicans and other members of the "conservative" movement are the most clearly guilty. President Biden and the other leaders of the Democratic Party and the "liberal" or "centrist" leadership class are also responsible, to the degree they did not rapidly identify the threat and respond accordingly.

Right-wing libertarians and neoliberal gangster capitalists, who for years have longed who to destroy the commons and social democracy in order to create a society where profits rule over people in all areas of life, are also responsible. They weakened the social fabric to such an extent that it was much easier for neofascism to take root.

However this dark chapter in American history concludes, and whatever the next chapter may hold, there will be many Americans (largely white people in the privileged classes) who will exclaim in all sincerity: How could such a thing have happened? Are we not better than this?

The answer to such questions will stare back at them from the mirror every morning -- and even then they will deny responsibility.

White supremacist Christmas: Those Boebert and Massie 'gun photos' are a direct threat

Thomas Massie and Lauren Boebert, two of the most blatantly fascistic Republican members of Congress, are dreaming of a White Christmas — with the emphasis on "White."

In the spirit of holiday cheer, Massie and Boebert recently shared family Christmas photos on social media — in which every family member is brandishing a gun. There's nothing unique about them. Such a "tradition" is fairly common among a particular subculture of American gun fetishists and "ammosexuals." This is but another symptom of America's unhealthy infatuation with gun violence.

Many responses to Boebert and Massie's Christmas cards from the mainstream media and other public voices have struck typical notes of performative outrage and disgust. There have been complaints that Massie and Boebert's behavior is not that of "good Christians." There was anger at the timing: Both photos were posted on social media within days of a mass shooting in Michigan, in which a 15-year-old boy allegedly killed four of his classmates and injured eight more.

That should not be understood as a coincidence: The Boebert and Massie photos were intentional provocations, demonstrating cruel indifference toward the victims of gun violence, as well as their families and communities.

Others used this episode to point at these two far-right members of Congress as illustrations of how deranged and cartoonish today's Republican Party has become.

Those reactions are valid in their own terms. But they are also examples of looking but not truly seeing — that is, of failing to understand the message and meaning being communicated in Massie and Boebert's family Christmas photos.

Fascism, as an ideology and movement, is contradictory, often incoherent and difficult for outsiders to understand. That is one of its greatest powers. Fascism arouses emotions of shock and anger among its targets and enemies, producing confusion and uncertainty in terms of assessing the danger.

In this moment, we can see the corrosive effects of the Big Lie, along with the many smaller ones that create an alternate reality for its followers. Fascism attacks normal society in many ways, with the aim of overwhelming people and rendering them helpless.

Too many people in democracies assaulted by fascism choose to hide behind denial, mockery, defensive humor and contempt. It is much easier to make fun of fascists for their evident absurdity than to confront them directly.

Understood in that light, the Massie and Boebert's family Christmas photos are revealed as examples of stochastic terrorism, and a specific threat of Christian fascist violence.

In an essay published at Salon, journalist and bestselling author Chris Hedges explained the growth of Christian fascism in America:

The greatest moral failing of the liberal Christian church was its refusal, justified in the name of tolerance and dialogue, to denounce the followers of the Christian right as heretics. By tolerating the intolerant it ceded religious legitimacy to an array of con artists, charlatans and demagogues and their cultish supporters….
These believers find in Donald Trump a reflection of themselves, a champion of the unfettered greed, cult of masculinity, lust for violence, white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, religious intolerance, anger, racism and conspiracy theories that define the central beliefs of the Christian right. When I wrote "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" I was deadly serious about the term "fascists."…
Christian fascism is an emotional life raft for tens of millions. It is impervious to the education, dialogue and discourse the liberal class naively believes can blunt or domesticate the movement. The Christian fascists, by choice, have severed themselves from rational thought. We will not placate or disarm this movement, bent on our destruction, by attempting to claim that we too have Christian "values." This appeal only strengthens the legitimacy of the Christian fascists and weakens our own.

Religion professor Anthea Butler's insights on the specific phenomenon she calls "White Christianity" are also helpful here. In a recent interview with Salon, she described its basic tenets: "Jesus is white. Jesus privileges white culture and white supremacy, and the political aspirations of whiteness over and against everything else. White Christianity assumes that everybody should be subsumed under whiteness in terms of culture and society. White Christianity assumes that it does not have to look at poverty."

Massie and Boebert's Christmas cards, with their heavily armed families, signify white conservatives' imagined exclusive right to commit lethal violence, especially when directed against Black or brown people, Muslims, Jews, nonwhite immigrants, Democrats, liberals, progressives, left-wing activists or any other group deemed to be the enemy of "real America."

Massie and Boebert's family Christmas pictures are also public statements directed at a broad audience. In an interview with a right-wing talk show, Massie explained his family photo this way: "I crossed guns with family and Christmas, and those are three things that really could trigger the leftists, and I didn't realize that it would be such an explosive cocktail when you put it together. But it adds up to freedom."

In these photographs, white identity politics manifest in the form of an "ideal" or "traditional" family, as envisioned by white Christian conservatives. In the white supremacist fantasies and conspiracy theories mainstreamed during the Age of Trump, large white families of that kind are understood to be a counterweight against the "browning of America" or the "great replacement."

Massie is presented in his family Christmas photo as a patriarch; his wife and children are depicted as as obedient and subservient to his authority and power.

Boebert's Christmas photo depicts a somewhat different archetype: the "mama bear" defending her "cubs." In the absence of their father or other adult males, Boebert is implicitly shown as teaching her sons to become "defenders" of their (white) home and (white) community.

The gun serves as the unifying symbol in these images. In America, the gun is historically a representation of white male power endorsed by God and passed down across generations from father to son. The power of the gun can be shared with the wife and daughters when necessary, but it is fundamentally an object of white male authority and as such is associated with sexuality, family, property, race, gender, patriotism and nationalism.

In his family photo, Thomas Massie is holding an M60 light machine gun. That weapon carries specific symbolic weight in the American popular imagination -- especially on the right. The M60 is an iconic weapon of the Vietnam War (and the Cold War era more generally) and was featured prominently in the "Rambo" movies and other action films of the 1970s and '80s. Along with other firearms such as the AR-15 and M-16 — often described as "freedom rifles" or "modern-day muskets" by right-wing paramilitaries and members of the "Patriot" movement — the M60 is an especially potent symbol of militant white Christianity.

In her recent book "Jesus and John Wayne," historian Kristen Kobes Du Mez discusses the "distinctive vision of evangelical masculinity" promoted by right-wing Christian media:

Finding comfort and courage in symbols of a mythical past, evangelicals looked to a rugged, heroic masculinity that was embodied by cowboys, soldiers, and warriors to point the way forward. For decades to come, military masculinity (and a sweet, submissive femininity) would remain entrenched in the evangelical imagination, shaping conceptions of what was good and true….
While dominant, the evangelical cult of masculinity does not define the whole of American evangelicalism. It is largely the creation of white evangelicals. The vast majority of books on evangelical masculinity have been written by white men primarily for white men. To a significant degree, the markets for literature on black and white Christian manhood remain distinct. With few exceptions, black men, Middle Eastern men, and Hispanic men are not called to a wild, militant masculinity. Their aggression, by contrast, is seen as dangerous, a threat to the stability of home and nation.

Viewed in a larger societal context, Massie and Boebert's family Christmas photos stand as a declaration of "white freedom" and white power. Consider the simple comparison: If a Black or Muslim or Latino family had created those images, Republicans, their propagandists and a large proportion of white America would have responded in outrage and panic over the perceived threat of crime and terrorism.

Instead, we have Christmas as a celebration of fascism, and a spectacle in the white-identity culture war against America's multiracial democracy.

When I was a child, my family did not pose with guns on Christmas Day. We favored music by Motown artists and other soul and R&B singers. My mother insisted on a few gospel tunes, and my father obliged. When it was time to open the gifts, I had the "honor" of playing The Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album. But our mainstays were songs by Stevie Wonder, Lou Rawls, Eartha Kitt, the Jackson 5, Otis Redding and others such as "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Santa Baby," "Merry Christmas Baby," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "What Christmas Means to Me." The showstopper was James Brown's "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto."

Looking at the Boebert and Massie family Christmas photos with all those guns, I kept thinking about Black Santa. He's a fixture in many Black and brown households but a controversial figure on the white right. Black Santa simply allows all children to have a Santa Claus who looks like them (if they choose to).

But Black Santa had best avoid the Boebert and Massie households. The outcome would not be merry or joyous.

Trump is rapidly moving toward a confession about his high crimes against America

Fascism is terrifying. So most people look away.

Fascism is disorienting: A basic understanding of truth and reality, of what is certain in the universe, is replaced by "malignant normality," a surreal environment. As a democracy slowly succumbs and then quickly collapses — which appears to be what America is experiencing right now — everything that was once familiar and comforting is replaced by a new order. Those who follow the fascist movement are subsumed in mass ecstasy. Others are disoriented as they variously decide to resist, to collaborate or simply to muddle through in their own day-to-day way.

In a new essay for the Guardian, philosopher and author Jason Stanley describes such a moment coming into existence in America:

There has been a growing fascist social and political movement in the United States for decades. Like other fascist movements, it is riddled with internal contradictions, but no less of a threat to democracy. Donald Trump is an aspiring autocrat out solely for his own power and material gain. By giving this movement a classically authoritarian leader, Trump shaped and exacerbated it, and his time in politics has normalized it.
Donald Trump has shown others what is possible. But the fascist movement he now leads preceded him, and will outlive him.

America's current democracy crisis and moment of interregnum feels like a state of collective cognitive dissonance.

Those outside the Trump-Republican fascist movement are increasingly disoriented and confused. They exist but are not truly alive in the civic, political and social sense. This is known as "zombie politics."

Perhaps most confused are those who truly believed in the myth of American exceptionalism — the idea of the United States as the one "indispensable nation," a shining city on the hill. The rise of neofascism, for those believers, is a type of narcissistic injury. It is also a shroud, marking the death of deeply ingrained but childish fantasies about American democracy, American society and America's future.

In 1920, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote the following in his book "Darkwater" about the global struggle against white supremacy, "And then—the Veil. It drops as drops the night on southern seas—vast, sudden, unanswering. There is Hate behind it, and Cruelty and Tears."

Given that America's native form of fascism is white supremacy, Du Bois's insights ring with especially painful clarity today.

Most Americans, faced with the terror of fascism, will do nothing. That is not an opinion or a judgment. It is just a fact. They know something is wrong — almost everything, in fact — but do not know what to do about it. They have been captured by inertia.

* * *

How many years of life has the Age of Trump cost the American people?

We know that the coronavirus plague, made dramatically worse by the Trump regime, will take more than a million people's lives in America.

It has also stolen millions of hours of life from the American people.

But what have the last five years or so cost us in terms of our peace of mind? How do we even quantify such a thing? What has this cost us existentially? What has already been lost, and what will be lost in the future?

On a personal level, I have concluded that the Age of Trump and this struggle has cost me at least five years of my life. I know this for a fact. In private conversation, other travelers have shared their number with me: Sometimes it is lower, and sometimes higher. The cost takes many different forms.

Since last Jan. 6, I have found myself repeatedly singing this part of David Bowie's haunting song "Five Years":

We've got five years, stuck on my eyes
Five years, what a surprise
We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot
Five years, that's all we've got

I wonder daily about other Americans and what songs they sing in lamentation for their country.

I have also reflected on George R. Stewart's essential science fiction novel "Earth Abides," whose narrator shares memories of a country that no longer existed after a great plague had spread across the world:

It had been a great thing, in those Old Times, to be an American. You had been deeply conscious of being one of a great nation. It was no mere matter of pride, but also there went with it a profound sense of confidence and security in life, and a comradeship of millions.

There is much woe in my contemplation and reflection on America's crisis of democracy, and what appears to be imminent doom. Anyone who is truly paying attention feels the same way.

Those of us who have insisted on warning the American people about the rising fascist tide have often become objects of rage and anger from the very people we are trying to help. I understand this logic: Somehow they believe that the horrible thing can be made to go away if those who keep talking about it can be silenced or driven to disappear. Those who feel powerless exercise what they perceive as their only remaining option, which is, in effect, to make the messenger be quiet.

In a recent conversation with historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat on my podcast, she explained this:

They want it to go away. They want the situation to go away. And sometimes they want you to go away. Sometimes they want me to go away. They wanted my book to go away…. The more interesting ones are the ones where they just can't handle it, you are irksome to them…. They don't want to accept what America is becoming. Some of those are the people writing us those notes.

America's democracy crisis and the fascist darkness are not going away. They are only getting worse. This is a moment when those Americans who care about the country's future need to lean into the fascist darkness and its collective evil with eyes fully open as to prepare themselves for what is to come next.

It has been almost a year since Donald Trump and his regime attempted a coup that involved a lethal attack on the U.S. Capitol and a nationwide plot to nullify the results of the 2020 presidential election. In the past year, the world has learned how perilously close American democracy actually came to the abyss.

It was mostly incompetence, dumb luck, timing and the choices of a few patriots who refused to cooperate that prevented America from becoming a Putin-style autocracy, with Trump as de facto dictator. Such a revolution would not have occurred without widespread violence. Indeed, in that alternate timeline the U.S. might well now be in the midst of a civil war or sustained insurgency.

Here is a thought experiment: What would happen if Donald Trump were to now admit his crimes against American democracy? Of course he would do so in cowardly fashion, with a wink and a nod. Something like: I am not saying I did anything illegal — but what if I did?

Trump would continue by explaining that he did it all for the American people — the real Americans! He did it to save America from Joe Biden and the "socialist Democrats." To save America from "cancel culture" and "political correctness" and "critical race theory". He did it to Make America Great Again!

"I did it for you!" he would tell his believers. "I am always fighting for you! We will no longer be victims in our own country! I would do it again for the people who truly love America!"

Donald Trump is rapidly moving toward such a moment. He has repeatedly said that the Jan 6. coup attempt was an act of patriotism and that the "real" insurrection happened on Nov. 3 when the election was "stolen" from him and his followers, in what was surely among the greatest crimes of history.

Last Saturday, Trump issued this pronouncement from his shadow government headquarters at Mar-a-Lago:

All the Democrats want to do is put people in jail. They are vicious, violent, and Radical Left thugs. They are destroying people's lives, which is the only thing they are good at.
They couldn't get out of Afghanistan without disgracing our Country. The economy and inflation are a disaster. They're letting thugs and murderers into our Country — their DA's, AG's, and Dem Law Enforcement are out of control. This is what happens in communist countries and dictatorships, and they don't think they'll be held accountable for rigging the 2020 Presidential Election.
The Jan. 6 Unselect Committee is a coverup for what took place on November 3rd, and the people of our Country won't stand for it.

Trump is reportedly planning "counter-programming" on the anniversary of Jan. 6 to celebrate his Big Lie and further encourage his followers to attack American democracy.

Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant director at the FBI, said in response that when Trump "sends out something like this it's indicative that he's learned something he didn't know," and that his targeting of Democratic district attorneys suggests that:

Word has gotten to him that something is happening, about to happen to him. He doesn't like where the investigation is going. He's lashing out. It's the possibility that either the state of New York or Manhattan district attorney's office and/or the DOJ is getting closer to him. Some word has gotten back to him that triggered that message.

So what will happen if Trump literally admits to high crimes against American democracy and society? Likely nothing. President Biden and the Department of Justice have shown a deep reluctance to prosecute Trump or his inner circle for their many alleged or apparent crimes. Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland remain afraid of "politicizing" the DOJ and creating a precedent that a former president can be held criminally responsible for their actions while in office.

In the most likely scenario, Trump and other members of his inner circle could face fines or suspended sentences. Perhaps Mark Meadows (or another ranking Trump sycophant) will be sacrificed for symbolic reasons and serve a brief prison sentence. Trump will face no significant consequences, and will be free to plot his return to power and his next attempt to bring down American democracy. Trump and his followers will, if anything, be even more energized in their crusade to seize and hold power.

What will the Democrats do? Not much. They will continue to hold hearings. There will be resolutions, investigations, and press conferences. They will scream, rightfully so, about each new set of "revelations" and what they tell us about the perilous state of American democracy and the rule of law. The Jan. 6 committee will make referrals to the Justice Department that will result in nothing substantial. Perhaps some Republican collaborators in Congress will be censured or removed from committees, as has already happened with Rep. Paul Gosar and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Even if Trump and his cabal admit to high crimes, Democrats will in all probability still be unable to craft an effective political message, and will remain riven by factional infighting.

As for the Republicans — they will be even more loyal to Donald Trump. His admission and public embrace of his criminal actions will become the new litmus test for being a "real Republican". The coup plotters will be elevated to even higher status in MAGAworld as "role models" and "heroes." Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney and a few other prominent Republicans will condemn Trump. But they are minority voices, near-pariahs at risk of purge or expulsion for disloyalty. Most Republican elected officials and national figures will remain silent — and a large and growing number will consent enthusiastically when Trump and his allies talk of "extraordinary times" and the need for "extraordinary measures".

Republicans will almost certainly win control of the House and Senate after the 2022 midterms. As promised, they will seek revenge on the Democrats through endless investigations, rolling back legislation and perhaps attempting to impeach Joe Biden. It is increasingly likely that either Donald Trump or his hand-picked successor will take power in 2024.

For the mainstream news media, Trump's hypothetical confession would be one of the largest stories in recent American history. But sustained and articulate advocacy for democracy in mainstream journalism will still be lacking. Some opinion leaders and other prominent media figures will tell the truth without fear. But the traditions, norms, incentive structure and institutional culture of the mainstream media are simply insufficient to effectively confront a bold and unapologetic authoritarian movement led by a former president.

After the initial shock and awe at Trump's confession, the media's focus will begin to fade. Soon it will move on to the next controversy, and the one after that.

As for the American people, Democratic voters and other liberals and progressives will be mobilized — at least for a while. There will be marches and protests and similar events. There may even be punctuated moments of civil unrest. But there will be no national strike, nor any sustained nationwide protests and other forms of direct action and corporeal resistance.

Republicans and "conservatives" will of course deny that Trump admitted to committing crimes or will simply support him. Any disapproval will be muted and polite, insufficient to turn Republicans and other Trump cultists against him. The Big Lie has become a master narrative, capable — for Trump's followers — of encompassing almost all possible events.

Public opinion polls have shown that a large number of Americans, across party divides, are simply exhausted by the aftermath of Jan. 6 and they escalating democracy crisis. They just want all the discord to subside, and a collective return to some type of "normal." Most Americans are politically disengaged, and will explain Trump's confession as just another example of the corruption and dysfunction of a fundamentally broken system.

Trump's followers — especially the right-wing paramilitaries and street thugs — will only be emboldened. Political scientists and other researchers have repeatedly shown that Republicans are increasingly willing to endorse violence against their perceived enemies — Democrats, "liberals" and "socialists," nonwhite people and Muslims — as a legitimate political tactic.

Benito Mussolini supposedly observed that if you pluck a chicken one feather at a time, people don't really notice. America's fascist movement has nearly plucked that bird naked before the world.

Once again, the Republican fascists are telling the American people and the world what they are going to do. There is little subtlety or subterfuge involved.

The American people must peer steady into the fascist darkness and resist every temptation to avert their eyes or run away. Unfortunately, most do not have the courage for such a task. The burden falls on the rest of us.

Of course GOP fascists are hypocrites — they also don’t care

A healthy democracy, in America or anywhere else, must be based upon shared assumptions about empirical reality, facts and truth. Today's Republican Party and other "conservatives" reject such basic principles, norms and values.

Fascism, which lies at the core of contemporary Republican politics, is the mind-killer: It is anti-intellectual, anti-rational and anti-human. Fascism also seeks to annihilate the world as it actually exists and replace it with a fantasy world created by the fascist movement and its leader.

Too many liberals and progressives in this hour of darkness cling to the misguided belief that their core values about reason, democracy, human rights and civil rights are effectively universal, and so compelling that Republicans and others on the right must share them to a large degree. This collective narcissism may doom us all.

Many members of the media class obsessively complain and protest — in a mixture of performative shock and sincere disbelief — that Republicans are "hypocrites" who have "double standards" and constantly tell lies. This is also a willful decision to avoid the truth.

To cite a recent example, it is now publicly known that on Jan. 6, Fox News personalities, including Brian Kilmeade, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, pleading with him to persuade Donald Trump to stop his followers from attacking the Capitol. Yet within hours or days, these propagandists were telling their viewers that Trump's attack force actually comprised "leftist radicals" — members of antifa, "Black Lives Matter or similar groups. Or, alternatively, that the Capitol attackers were genuine patriots and heroes — or simply "tourists."

On cue, Democrats and the mainstream commentariat lambasted Fox News for its supposed hypocrisy and for allegedly insulting its audience. And of course, once this news hit the headlines, the Fox hosts involved changed their stories, blatantly lying about what their texts to Meadows had said. Hannity, Ingraham and Kilmeade pledged their loyalty once again to Donald Trump — out of fear, shared by all members of his cult following, that he might order them purged for disloyalty.

This is all part of a much larger and very tedious pattern, in which many liberals and Democrats express amazement that Republican political leaders and propagandists say one thing in private and something opposite in public. There also continues to be considerable consternation and awe at the power of Trump's Big Lie and his followers' unwavering dedication to it.

Even after decades, many people still seem stunned by the Republican Party and the broader right's unwavering hostility toward science and expertise, their cultlike behavior and rejection of reality, their willingness to embrace conspiracy theories and religious extremism, their deepening attraction to fascism and authoritarianism and a range of related antisocial behavior.

These habitual complaints about Republican hypocrisy function as a script or narrative frame that dominates much mainstream American political commentary. The indictment has lost almost all its power, except among a small niche audience of those who have convinced themselves that "democratic norms" still apply to the Republicans. When the average American is told that the Republicans are hypocrites, the common (and largely understandable) response is: "So what?" To make that accusation against politicians is the equivalent of observing that water is in fact wet.

But for those in the chattering class who wield such words it has the imagined power of a religious invocation: God's judgment is called down to punish the "hypocrite" who has transgressed against the democratic order and its supposed commitment to truth and facts. In the world of realpolitik — and a country under siege by a fascist movement — such holy words have lost their power. If there is a deity who cares about such things, that deity abandoned the American people a long time ago.

But there is another more basic explanation for why Democrats and others committed to reason, truth and democracy continue to believe they can find common ground with Republicans. That explanation is rooted in fear.

Today's Republican Party and conservative movement has shown itself to be sociopathic and sadistic. It evinces no belief in a moral code or set of values that could be leveraged to create feelings of shame or embarrassment. Winning and keeping political power is all that matters; domination and control are the sole raison d'être.

Most people who identify with the Democratic Party, and most Americans overall, are terrified of that fact and continue to deny it, believing — or pretending to believe — that Republicans will return to the realm of "normal" politics sooner or later.

In a conversation with Salon earlier this year, Dr. Justin Frank, a physician and psychoanalyst who is the author of "Donald Trump on the Couch," explained the roots of such reasoning:

Most people do not want to believe that a person could be as destructive and evil as Donald Trump. That fact changes their worldview and their fantasies about life having a happy ending. The fantasy is that we are all protected, we are all going to be safe, which is a very childlike way of thinking. This is why many people do not want to acknowledge what Trump really is: They do not want to face the fact that Donald Trump, in my opinion, has shown himself to be a psychopath.

Similarly Dr. John Gartner, a former professor at the Johns Hopkins medical school and a contributor to the bestseller "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President," offered this context in an interview earlier this year:

In a way, we as a society have been so protected and privileged, and lived such a life of peace and sanity, that we don't believe that the dystopian science fiction that we are living today in America is actually happening. There's a certain default option of normality. Nobody wants to give up that default assumption that we are still living in a world of facts and sanity.

White America does not have either the historic memory or contemporary experience that comes from living under that kind of power, or struggling against it. For many people, therefore, the default impulse is to deny or ignore the existential danger embodied by American fascism, or simply hide from it in terror.

Fascism is viewed by many Americans — mostly but not entirely meaning white Americans — as something that occurs "over there" as opposed to arising here at home. Black Americans, of course, had a dramatically different historical experience, surviving and defeating domestic fascism in the form of chattel slavery and then the regime of Jim and Jana Crow white supremacy.

Many heirs to the Black Freedom Struggle are not especially surprised by the ascent of American neofascism in the Age of Trump. Moreover, Black Americans and other marginalized groups are uniquely "gifted" in terms of their ability to comprehend such evil and ultimately to outlast and defeat it. Others would be wise to learn from them.

What should those who are genuinely committed to saving American democracy do in this moment of escalating crisis? Most important of all, they must not abandon their core values. That amounts to surrender. Liberals, progressives and other pro-democracy forces must instead embrace a new maturity by confronting the political battlefield (and the larger world) as it exists, not as they wish it to be.

Over the last few years, I have come to this conclusion: What many Democrats, liberals and progressives of a certain type —comfortable, middle-class and predominantly white — want from the Republicans and conservatives is an apology. They seem to expect a rueful admission that fascism was not supposed to "happen here," and an expression of regret that the democratic bargain has been broken and betrayed.

In this fantasy, first comes the collective schadenfreude and satisfaction of seeing both the leaders and followers of the Republican Party admit they were wrong. Second comes an expression of repentance and a kind of conversion experience, in which Republicans and their followers come back to reason and fully commit themselves to "normal" social and political behavior.

In reality, no such apology will be forthcoming, nor will there be any ritual penitence. Republicans and their allies are dedicated to their cause. They believe themselves to be just and noble, and moreover to be righteous victims of oppression who are on the correct side of history. They will never admit defeat. They will never repent. To an increasing degree, they are willing to die or kill for their cause.

Do Democrats and their allies want to be "right" on questions of principle and to keep on complaining in sanctimonious terms about hypocrisy and lies and the violation of so-called norms and institutions? Or do they want to win power and keep it, and by doing so save the unfinished experiment of American democracy from descending into fascism? The answer to that question will help to shape the future of American democracy.

Hillary Clinton was right about the 'deplorables' — and the end of Roe v. Wade

During her 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton warned us that Donald Trump and his "basket of deplorables" were a threat to American democracy. She wasn't a prophet. She was simply offering a reasonable analysis based on the available evidence — and she paid an enormous political price for daring to tell that truth in public.

Two things can be true at the same time. Russian interference may well have played a role in Donald Trump's unlikely electoral victory in 2016. But it is also true that Clinton's truthful but politically unwise comment about the "deplorables" helped to swing the momentum — with the help of an eager and compliant mainstream news media — in Trump's direction.

Clinton's description was in fact about much more than the disreputable people who flocked to Trump's banner. It was also a warning about the regressive politics and antisocial values that Trump's followers represented (and still do), including cruelty, racism and white supremacy, sexism and misogyny, collective narcissism, anti-intellectualism, an infatuation with violence, proud ignorance and support for fascism and authoritarianism.

Whatever you think of her as a person and a public figure, Clinton clearly perceived that Trumpism would be a disaster for American democracy and the world, pushing the United States towards the brink of full-on fascism including an attempted coup. Clinton's campaign strategy against Trump had numerous evident flaws, but her diagnosis of Trump and his movement' was overwhelmingly correct.

One thing Hillary Clinton clearly perceived, even if she didn't put it this way, was that Trump's authoritarian politics would involve a campaign to limit human freedom, in accordance with the needs and goals of the Trump movement. Specifically, limiting and controlling the bodily autonomy of those groups and individuals deemed to be Other, the enemy or otherwise subordinate to the dominant group.

Such an exercise of power is central and foundational to American fascism in its various forms, as the history of slavery and Jim Crow ought to make clear. In America now, the fascist movement longs for the subordination, control, and domination of women's and girls' bodies to the sexual, emotional, financial, physical and psychological needs of men — especially, of course, white conservative "Christian" men. Restricting women's reproductive rights and freedoms, especially by attempting to force women to conceive and bear children, are recurring features of fascist-authoritarian political projects and societies.

Hillary Clinton warned us about this as well, as Colbert King noted several months ago in the Washington Post:

I'm also sick at heart because five years ago, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton put the country on notice that this day could come.

While celebrating the Supreme Court's June 27, 2016, decision rejecting two restrictive provisions in a Texas House bill regulating abortion, Clinton warned in a campaign release that the fight for the right to access health care, and for women to make their own decisions about their bodies and their futures, was "far from over."

She stated, presciently, "The fact that our next president could appoint as many as three or four justices in the next four years" is a striking reminder "that we can't take rulings like today's for granted."

Clinton left no room for speculation. "Just consider Donald Trump, the Republicans' presumptive nominee. The man who could be president has said there should be some form of 'punishment' for women seeking abortions. He pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. And last year, he said he'd shut down the government rather than fund Planned Parenthood."

And Clinton made clear the consequences. "If we send Trump to the White House and a Republican majority to Congress, he could achieve any — or all — of these things. And that's why this election is so important."

"The outcome of November's contests," she declared, "is going to be a deciding factor in whether our elected officials and our courts defend or attack a woman's right to health care for generations to come."

Transforming a democracy into a fascist-authoritarian state is usually a process, not a singular spontaneous event. In the United States in this decade, this has taken the form of one of our two institutional political parties becoming increasingly and openly hostile toward the very idea of multiracial and pluralistic democracy.

More specifically, the Trump-controlled Republican Party and the larger neofascist movement it represents is the symptom of deeper societal problems, rather than their cause. This moment must also be understood as the result of long-term planning by right-wing elites.

Once again, Hillary Clinton was eerily prescient. During an interview in 1998 with NBC's "Today," she famously warned of the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that sought to destroy her husband's presidency. Less noticed at the time, she also spoke larger truths about American society and the forces working to undermine its most fundamental rights and freedoms.

In 2016, Clinton revisited that warning during a televised town hall meeting in New Hampshire. Here's how CBS News reported that event:

"At this point it's probably not correct to say it's a conspiracy because it's out in the open," Clinton said. "There is no doubt about who the players are, what they're trying to achieve. ... It's real, and we're going to beat it." ... [R]eferencing GOP financiers like Charles and David Koch, Clinton said the right wing is now "even better funded."

"They've brought in some new multibillionaires," she said. "They want to control our country. They want to rig the economy so they can get richer and richer.

"They salve their consciences by giving money to philanthropy," Clinton continued, "but make no mistake, they want to destroy unions, they want to go after any economic interest they don't believe they can control."

The Supreme Court is now signaling, in bright lights, that it intends to follow through on the decades-long plan by the Republican Party, its Christian fascist elements and other "movement conservatives" to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and otherwise sharply restrict women's reproductive rights and freedoms. Taking away women's bodily autonomy to this extent is another step in the Republican-fascist assault on the human and civil rights of all Americans.

In a new essay, author and talk-show host Thom Hartmann warns that this is "just the first of a series of ideas Republicans have to regulate women's behavior and roll back the clock to the early 1960s when women couldn't get a credit card without their father's or husband's permission, had no legal right to birth control in some states, and faced fully legal discrimination in housing, education and employment." He continues:

In the 1960s, employers could fire women for getting pregnant, women had no legal right to a harassment-free workplace, were charged extra for health insurance, and could be legally raped by their husbands, among other indignities.

And this is just the start. Today the Court is hearing a case out of Maine that could require states to pay for the tuition of all students attending religious schools, using taxpayer money that normally funds public schools. This would include forcing states to pay for religious schools that openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ students and staff, and teach children that being gay is a sin.

Once Republicans are done with birth control they'll be coming for gay marriage and, ultimately, broader civil rights laws themselves including, like in Hungary (their new role model), ending the rights to assembly, free-speech, and due process.

And if you think that's an over-the-top concern, consider: Just a few months ago, Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that provides immunity to drivers who plow their cars into protesters, if those protesters are on a public street. They're already going after our right of public assembly.

Winter is coming: next stop, Gilead.

Last week, Hillary Clinton spoke to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow about America's democracy crisis and the Republican threats to human and civil rights. She was describing the plot of the fictional thriller she co-wrote with Louise Penny, "State of Terror," but also America at present: "[T]here is a plot against the country by people who truly want to turn the clock back. They believe that the progress we've made on all kinds of civil rights and human rights, the cultural changes that have taken place, are so deeply threatening that they want to stage a coup."

America's crisis of democracy is in a wild and dangerous moment, where unpredictable and horrible new realities are being born and where hope is diminishing. The choice between democracy and fascism may have narrowed so far that the real choice at this moment is more about how bad the emerging American fascist regime will be and what possibilities for effective resistance will remain. That may sound hyperbolic, but matters are rapidly becoming that dire.

Defending American democracy in the time that remains requires setting aside factional differences within the Democratic Party — and within the political "left" and "center" more generally — and uniting around the common goal of defeating the Republican-fascist movement. "Hillary derangement syndrome," in the form of the extreme hostility and rage some leftists and progressives still feel toward Clinton, is only a distraction.

Hillary Clinton tried to warn the American people what would happen if Trump and his regime took power — she was proven to be correct. She continues to warn the America and the world about the all-too-real "vast right-wing conspiracy" that continues to push forward, winning victory after victory in its war against human rights, human dignity, social democracy and freedom.

In various ways, Hillary Clinton's unexpected "defeat" by Donald Trump in 2016 offered an important preview of what was to come, with American democracy increasingly under siege. Many people perceived it as a fluke or an anomaly at the time, but it was nothing of the kind. It was a sign. Love her or hate her, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton understood the danger clearly.

Former Trump aide who was 'Anonymous': Why he stayed, why he left and how the GOP became more dangerous than ISIS

Almost every week we learn "new" information about the Trump regime's attempted (and ongoing) coup and other crimes against democracy and the rule of law. These supposed revelations are now barely newsworthy. This new type of normal is the way democracy dies.

Donald Trump's underlings, as it turns out, issued detailed instructions to Vice President Mike Pence on how to sabotage the counting of the Electoral College votes last Jan. 6, in order to send the results of the 2020 presidential election back to Republican-controlled state legislatures in "battleground" states. If that failed to change the outcome, the final decision — as specified in the Constitution — would have been made in the House of Representatives, where Trump would presumably have been "elected."

It's impossible to know exactly how bad things would have gotten after such an outcome. The United States likely would have seen mass public unrest on a virtually unprecedented scale, perhaps offering Trump an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act, order the military into the streets, and suspend the Constitution. In effect, that manufactured emergency would have granted Donald Trump the powers of a dictator — which was quite likely his goal all along.

Ultimately, Donald Trump and his regime's array of crimes against democracy, American society and humanity should not have been a surprise to any reasonably intelligent person. When future historians look back on the Age of Trump, one central theme will likely be that America's political class almost unanimously knew about Trump's misdeeds, and for a variety of reasons were silent or complicit or both.

There were certainly whistleblowers — but they were far too few.

There were the "adults in the room" who tried to rein in Trump's worst impulses, including the retired generals John Kelly, H.R. McMaster and Jim Mattis, who at least prevented him from starting a nuclear war or provoking another global catastrophe. But for the most part these "adults in the room" remained silent both during and after their time in Trump's administration, and did not act to remove him from office or aid in his impeachment.

There were opportunists, who for personal or political reasons (or both), found ways to advance their own agendas through Trump's malfeasance. They may have personally disliked or even detested Trump but, in the end, he was a valuable means to an end.

There were people with books to sell and other ways to cash in on their privileged access to Trump, often by hoarding the secrets about his misconduct that they had accumulated.

Miles Taylor, who worked as chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, was one of the few members of the Trump regime who attempted to resist from within. Under the name "Anonymous," Taylor wrote the much-discussed 2018 New York Times op-ed "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration," in which he warned the American people and the world about the great danger that Trump represented. Taylor also sought to reassure onlookers that there were rational patriots within that unhinged regime, doing their utmost to control Trump's worst inclinations.

One can debate the morality of Taylor's choice to remain inside the Trump regime as a truth-teller and human guardrail, but there can be no question he has paid a price, becoming a major enemy for Trump and his loyal supporters. Taylor has also been maligned by many in the political class and the media, as well as liberals and progressives, because he did not resign, make himself public and reveal what he knew.

Taylor later wrote the book "A Warning," still as "Anonymous," before later revealing his identity. His op-ed "Inside the fight for the GOP's soul" was recently featured in the Deseret News.

In this interview, to be published by Salon in two parts, Taylor discusses the threats that he and other former members of the Trump regime have endured for speaking out, and what this reveals about America's worsening democracy crisis. He also reflects on his initial decision to join the Trump administration, in hopes of goal of bringing some level of professionalism to what he and others knew would be a volatile and dangerous presidency.

Later in this conversation, Taylor explains his views of that the events of Jan. 6, which he says were utterly predictable, adding that senior officials in the Trump administration and the Republican Party's leadership knew all along that such a destructive outcome was more likely than not.

Given all that has happened since your decision to speak out against the Trump administration, with the events of Jan. 6 and America's escalating democracy crisis more generally, how are you feeling?

I recently spoke with someone else who left the Trump administration in protest. He told me, "It never really gets easier." That comment really resonated with me. People who made that choice have post-traumatic stress disorder. Those of us who joined the Trump administration to try to do the right thing and then left in protest have been under siege by MAGAworld ever since. This is also emblematic of the bigger picture of American politics at present. The discourse has gotten very violent. It is not just vitriolic, it is violent. Those of us who left Trumpland and have spoken out against him are experiencing this in a very visceral way.

The person I just spoke with no longer lives in their home and in a sense is really on the run and living with day-to-day personal life trauma, from having made what they felt was the correct professional choice.

Let me contrast my experience with leaving the Trump administration with what would have happened if I had resigned from the Bush administration in protest. In that event, I would have been maligned by GOP figures and then they would've forgotten about me. I wouldn't be fearing for my life and on the run. But people who've made such a choice in the Trump era are literally still fearing for their lives. In some cases, some are still on the run. Many others have lost homes, jobs, marriages and the like.

It's a really different environment. This is because of Trump in many ways. Trump is the person who has really given a permission slip to the people who want to inject violence into American politics as a means of intimidation, to silence the opposition.

What did you expect would happen when you and others decided to leave or otherwise stand up against Trump and the administration?

I fully expected from the moment that I submitted an op-ed years ago to the New York Times that it would have severe negative repercussions for my life. It was clear what our political environment was like. In some ways it is actually encouraging that all these people who knew that opposing Trump from the inside would lead to a self-detonation of their personal lives still went ahead and did it anyway.

That gives me some cause for hope. There is strength in numbers. I'm hopeful that we will see a slow snowball rolling through MAGAland consisting of people who are disaffected, that left the president's orbit and are tired of it all and want to move on. If more people en masse are willing to speak the truth about Trump and this moment, to stand up to the Big Lie or Trump in their actual communities, then the price for doing so will go down.

I actually see that in my own small sample size of the community I grew up in. People who were afraid during the four years of Trump to admit how crazy they thought the guy was, and then, after Jan. 6, felt like, "Oh, thank God! One, he's out of office. Two, it culminated in something terrible." Now they feel more comfortable to speak the truth, but they're not going to do so if there's not air cover, if there are not more people willing to speak up.

Puzzle through this scenario and decision-making process with me. People lingered on in the Trump administration and larger orbit. They got what they wanted, be it policies or visibility and some amount of power and other rewards. Then at some point they decide, "I'm going to bail." But what about accountability? What about responsibility?

Let's use the example of someone joining the Mafia or another criminal organization. They extort a neighborhood and burn down all these houses. But then when they get to the school, one of them decides that is going too far — they're going to go public and write a book about their time in the mob. That decision does not exonerate that person for burning down all those houses.

This is of course totally self-serving, so I don't blame someone for writing me off by saying this. But the people who went in at the beginning of the administration were far and away not Trumpers. The vast majority of people who went into the administration at the beginning were solid Republicans who'd worked in past administrations, hadn't supported Trump at all, but felt like, "All right, this thing's pretty crazy. Let's go in and try to stabilize the ship."

I mean that all the way up to the Cabinet. In fact, I would argue that at the beginning of his term, the Cabinet was largely of that worldview: that the man who had just assumed the presidency was probably unqualified for the job and needed people who knew what the hell they were doing around him. They were largely of the view that he probably wouldn't acclimate to the job, but they could manage the fallout. Over time, I think almost all of those folks came to the conclusion that it was worse than they had even imagined when they decided to join the administration.

Then comes that next moral question. Someone may have joined a mob and not known it was a mob, and then said, "Well, now they're burning down houses." Alternatively, maybe they joined the mob and said, "Hey, we're going to dismantle this thing from the inside or change them to go do bake sales instead of burn down houses." But then, once you don't succeed, you have another moral choice to make.

The first is, can you do any good and stop the bad from happening? And once you realize you're not able to do good anymore, you arrive at a key decision. This is when saying no is no longer enough — that has really got to be the time to go.

I've got personal opinions about folks who stayed too long. In my case, once we hit that inflection point of saying no, and it no longer stopped bad things from happening because Trump would just start overruling us, to me the moral choice became very clear.

At this point, you're no longer doing any good. So, you just have to call it out. That's where I think the inflection has to be for folks. Unfortunately, you've got a lot of people who ended up at the end of this administration who were the echo chamber for Donald Trump. They benefited from being the echo chamber because it let them get closer to him. This is not dissimilar from what one sees in authoritarian regimes.

I don't look at the administration and say, "Every person that went in was a Trumper, and therefore they were bad." Most of them were just general public servants. But what happened over time, and what decisions they made along the way, is how history will and should judge those folks.

But in the meantime, the recriminations can come later. I think what's most important is that even those who were loyal up until Jan. 6 and have not spoken out yet still have an obligation to do so. They should share the things that they would say privately, have the courage to come out and tell the world who this man really is. Because I don't know what the hell else will wake up people who still support Donald Trump. Other than that his whole inner circle could come out and say, "He's a bad, bad man, and he is totally incompetent."

What was your reaction to the events of Jan. 6, the attempted coup and attack on the Capitol?

Watching those events, there was no doubt to me that a coup was in progress.

If war beget war after 9/11, what happens after Jan. 6? That's what we need to be thinking about here. This is not over. There is an ongoing effort to subvert our democracy. It is now being actively systematized by Donald Trump and enabled by his elected acolytes in Congress and candidates running for Congress. They want to rewrite the rules, literally, to benefit them. I can't imagine something more antithetical to a democratic republic than that. It's a true test, and a huge proportion of the American people are blind to that threat. We are in one of those inflection moments where truly horrible things can happen.

In my career I have focused on national security and public safety work. To me, this is the single biggest national security threat this country has faced in my lifetime. The threats to our democracy are greater now from an illiberal, unreformed GOP than they were from al-Qaida or than they were from ISIS or have been from Russia. And perhaps even from the threat of the Chinese Communist Party. That's how serious the strain of illiberalism that's coursing through our political veins is to the health of our democracy

Given your experience in the Trump administration, were the events of Jan. 6 a surprise? Or was it just confirmation of what you always suspected could happen?

Genuinely, anyone who voted for Donald Trump should have had enough data points to anticipate this could potentially be the outcome. It's why during the campaign and the GOP nomination in 2016, so many of us behind the scenes were actively working to thwart Trump's rise.

It was not even the thought that he could win the presidency, because none of us thought he could win it. I can't remember a single person that was working with me among the House Republican leadership who thought Donald Trump could win.

But they did all think that merely his achievement in becoming the GOP frontrunner, and then the nominee, would have severe negative repercussions on not just the party but on the country. For example, there was real fear in Paul Ryan's office that if Trump got the nomination, it would give legitimacy to his very isolationist, bigoted worldview.

Given all the things that Donald Trump said during the campaign, one should have been able to extrapolate a straight line to something like Jan. 6. And it's also why people went into the administration.

It's firmly my view that I should let people speak for themselves who haven't spoken publicly. But one very prominent person in the administration, who's not come out, in my opinion, hard enough publicly against the president, said to me toward the very beginning, "I'm joining this team because I'm scared as hell for the country." That was one of their explanations to me about why I should come join the team. So here was someone at the Cabinet level at the beginning, who was already foreseeing how bad this could end up.

Jan. 6 was not an aberration. If you ran this scenario a thousand times, it is probably the result you would get 900 of those times. I think 50 of those times it ends up far worse and more tragically. Maybe another 50, they don't breach the walls of the Capitol. But in almost every scenario, Trump ends up doing exactly what he did and fomenting exactly what he did on Jan. 6. That should have been foreseeable and now it's been made real.

That outcome and events should factor into the public's considerations on whether to support Trump if he runs in 2024. Moreover, it should factor into whether we embrace the people that Donald Trump selects to be his heirs. The latter is crucially important because it has now been proven that Donald Trump is that large of a danger to our republic. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to act.


After the Rittenhouse: Will 'white freedom' spell the ruin of America?

"White freedom" could bring the ultimate ruination of America. By that term, I do not simply mean "white privilege" or "racist" behavior that violates social norms and is considered unacceptable or aberrant. White freedom is much more powerful than that: it is a core organizing principle of American society.

In his recent book "White Freedom: The Racial History of an Idea," Tyler Stovall explains this concept as "the belief (and practice) that freedom is central to white racial identity, and that only white people can or should be free."

Contrary to what many Americans would like to believe, the country's founding was not a project dedicated to universal human rights. Instead, America's "democratic" experiment was based on a racialized understanding of democracy and of who counts as fully human — and who does not.

In the 18th century, full citizenship rights and "democracy" were exclusive to white men who owned property. As Charles Mills, Edmund Morgan and other scholars have documented, Black and other nonwhite people were the boundary against which "democracy" and white freedom were to be demarcated and built upon. In his 1999 book "The Racial Contract," Charles Mills summarizes this as: "Whiteness is not really a color at all, but a set of power relations."

White freedom is everywhere in America. Black and brown people (and some white people as well) condemn it as a manifestation of the lies which undercut any claims that America is an "exceptional" nation and the world's greatest democracy.

Many or most white people, however, take white freedom for granted and are likely to deny its very existence, even as they remain extremely protective of its power. This is but one example of the lies that are central to race itself, and the transhistorical project of making and remaking whiteness.

The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, and his acquittal on all charges, offers one of the most recent high-profile examples of how white freedom functions in America.

Last August, Rittenhouse, who was then 17 years old, traveled across state lines, armed himself with an AR-15 assault style rifle, joined forces with a local militia group and put himself in the middle of the civil disturbances caused by the police shooting of a black man named Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse shot three men, killing two of them, allegedly in self-defense. When he attempted to surrender to police they ignored him, and then he was cleared of all legal responsibility in a criminal trial whose judge was blatantly biased in his favor, and based on gun laws and definitions of self-defense that advantage white defendants. He is already a right-wing media star, and will likely soon become a wealthy celebrity.

Consider the fact that Rittenhouse was not shot dead by the police as he walked down the street with an assault rifle, immediately after shooting three people in the street. That is an iconic illustration of white freedom's power over life and death in America. White vigilantism is perhaps the ultimate expression of white freedom.

I asked Tyler Stovall to share his thoughts about the role of white freedom in the Rittenhouse saga. He responded by email:

The recent acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse by an essentially white jury for murdering two unarmed men simply underscores the widespread belief in the fragility of white privilege and the overwhelming need to preserve it. Rittenhouse's argument that he acted in self-defense proved compelling, even though it was not backed up by any substantial proof, and the jury simply ignored the facts that he chose to enter an area armed with a high-powered rifle and became the only person to kill another human being that night. Rittenhouse's trial became a textbook case of the need to preserve white freedom, to prevent a tearful young white man from going to jail even though he permanently deprived others not only of their liberty but of their lives. ...

One only need imagine what would have happened if Kyle Rittenhouse were a young Black man who claimed to have shot others in self-defense. Consider the case of Tamir Rice, shot by Cleveland police in 2014 at the age of 12 for holding a toy rifle. The claim of the police, upheld by the judicial system, was that his murder was justified because he presented a possible threat. If Rittenhouse were Black his victims would doubtlessly be seen as justified in attacking him, in self-defense, because he held a rifle (a real one), and Rittenhouse would most likely have been convicted of murder. But Rittenhouse is white, and self-defense works in his case because it is ultimately a defense of white power, white privilege and white freedom.


Rittenhouse's actions were easily avoidable: If he had simply stayed home, no one would have died in Kenosha that night. That human tragedy also offers an example of the ways white freedom is central to a larger dynamic of escalating right-wing political violence and other threats to American democracy.

The ongoing Republican coup and Jim Crow 2.0 assault on multiracial democracy is an act of white freedom, in which Black and brown people's civil rights are being usurped as part of a larger plan to create a new American apartheid system. Moreover, white freedom is so powerful that these fascistic attacks on multiracial democracy are largely legal — or at least occur on the debatable margins of legality — and cannot simply be corrected by enforcing existing laws.

The coup attempt and attack on the Capitol last January by Donald Trump's followers was also an example of white freedom. The insurrectionists felt emboldened in their violence, overt racism and anti-democracy fervor because they believed, with good reason, that white freedom granted them the "right" to act with impunity.

Trump and the other plotters who planned and executed the events of Jan. 6 -- and many other aspects of the ongoing coup against American democracy -- have not been punished for their evident or likely crimes. For the most part, the foot soldiers arrested in the wake of Jan. 6 have received relatively light sentences for their crimes against democracy and the rule of law.

All of these events are part of a much larger campaign against democracy, which law enforcement and national security experts warn may lead to a violent insurgency against the Biden administration, the Democrats and other groups targeted by the far-right "patriot" movement. This too is another example of white freedom.

Black and brown people (or "leftists" of any race, for that matter) would never be allowed to operate with such impunity, or with reasonable assurance that they would face no serious punishment. They certainly would not be described in empathetic detail by voices in the mainstream news media as people who were "angry," "upset," "confused" and likely "misunderstood."

White freedom is also exemplified by America's criminogenic politics — which go back well before the Age of Trump — in which the wealthiest individuals (nearly all white) and largest corporations (nearly all controlled by white men) can act with impunity, concealing their wealth and income to avoid taxes, destroying the environment and evading virtually any responsibility for their individual and collective crimes against society.

White freedom also manifests through collective narcissism. The Republican death cult repeatedly emphasizes the language of "freedom" to encourage its followers not to wear masks and to refuse vaccination against COVID-19, not merely risking their own lives but endangering public health on a grand scale.

Across a range of public policies, today's Republican Party and the larger "conservative movement" have advocated and enacted laws that have increased human misery and loss of life among the American people, as well as around the world. White freedom permits, encourages, enables, protects and normalizes such antisocial and sadistic behavior.

Neofascism may represent the final form of white freedom in American democracy. Right-wing political violence and other forms of terrorism are becoming normalized. The Republican-fascist movement led by Trump is a political cult prefaced upon using white freedom to attack its "enemies" with impunity. Those who are deemed inferior, according to the ideology of white freedom, are to be denied any fundamental human rights or liberties.

Loyalty to white freedom, and the retrograde reactionary values and politics it represents, empowers a wide range of antisocial and anti-human behavior against marginalized individuals and groups, not always based on race, color or ethnicity. White freedom by definition is exclusionary, and this form of "freedom" is defined by white people's ability to define and limit the freedom of others

Leonce Gaiter, who has written extensively on questions of race, masculinity and violence, offered this additional context for understanding white freedom and American history, in an email to Salon:

When white supremacy is challenged, white reaction follows. Reconstruction brought reclamation. The '60s and '70s rights revolutions brought Reagan. Obama's election brought the tea party and Trump.

In this nation's 245 years, African Americans have enjoyed statutory equal rights for only 56 — since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Think about it. White supremacy and forms of apartheid have been the status quo in this nation for 77% of its history. The very ideas of black equal rights and full black citizenship are shockingly new. This is something we dare not forget. After Obama's election, the post-racial nonsense flew in all directions, flung by white pundits desperate to forget American history. Instead, we got Trumpism and a Republican Party cheering racist violence to maintain white supremacy.

To a large percentage of the white population, their "white identity" can be reduced to "white supremacy." There is no "white" American identity because there is no aspect of American "white" identity that Black and brown Americans have not overtly impacted (speech, art, letters, music, dance, morality, notions of freedom) — save white supremacy. "White" is a null identity — it was created in opposition to those it wished to exploit. It does not celebrate what you are. It insists on what you are not. Thus the identity is so fragile that any perceived threat requires the appearance of long guns.

Gaiter concluded:

The Rittenhouse trial and verdict — a judge coddling the white man on trial for murdering white men seen as black allies — an overwhelmingly white jury, white "self-defense" as an excuse for murdering men after overtly seeking violent confrontation… it's all America's normal. We are not better than this. It is a large part of who we have always been. Supposed "moderates" and liberals have never had the stomach to sever the diseased limb of white race hatred from the body politic. Until they do, there will always be a Kyle Rittenhouse. His story is the bulk of America's.

Historians have observed that America's founding rests upon two crimes against humanity: The genocide against First Nations peoples and white-on-Black chattel slavery. White freedom was a partner in those crimes against humanity, and was largely defined by them.

America in the 21st century faces an existential struggle for the future of its democracy and society. Matters are becoming so dire that if seems conceivable the country could face a second Civil War. In this struggle for America's future, the neofascists are carrying the banner of white freedom.

On the other side are those Americans who believe in a true "We the People" multiracial democracy. These two forces cannot logically be reconciled. Unfortunately, the Democrats and other Americans who hope to redeem and renew democracy are consistently on the defensive. To defeat white freedom, we can no longer downplay it or deny its existence. We must name it, recognize it and confront it directly, before it devours us all.

Trump used mass death as a political weapon — and it's the country's reaction that is truly shocking

More than 750,000 people have died from the coronavirus plague in the United States. Epidemiologists and other public health professionals predict that more than a million will die before the pandemic is finally vanquished. Millions more Americans will experience long-term and perhaps lifelong negative health impacts after surviving COVID-19.

By one serious estimate, the coronavirus pandemic cost the American people more than 7 million years of life in 2020 alone. More than 140,000 children have lost their primary caregivers to the coronavirus plague. These estimates do not include any guess as to how many millions of peoples' lifespans will be shortened because of the psychological, emotional and financial stress and other misery caused by the pandemic.

What do people do with all that pain and loss and resulting emptiness? Where will they put the sadness and anger?

Ultimately, Donald Trump and his regime are responsible for many of the deaths — probably a large majority of them — caused by the coronavirus pandemic. At almost every key moment, Trump and his inner circle, along with other Republican elected officials who followed his lead, made decisions based on personal self-interest, greed and political partisanship, rather than a sincere effort to save American lives.

New reporting in Politico this week details the Trump regime's de facto acts of democide against the American people, based on the congressional release of "emails and transcripts with former senior CDC officials about the White House's attempts to sideline the agency at critical moments" early in the pandemic:

The emails and transcripts detail how in the early days of 2020 Trump and his allies in the White House blocked media briefings and interviews with CDC officials, attempted to alter public safety guidance normally cleared by the agency and instructed agency officials to destroy evidence that might be construed as political interference.
The documents further underscore how Trump appointees tried to undermine the work of scientists and career staff at the CDC to control the administration's messaging on the spread of the virus and the dangers of transmission and infection.

As was reported last year, also by Politico, staffers at the Department of Health and Human Services sought changes in the CDC's weekly reports on COVID-19 "to align the summaries more closely with [Trump's] talking points":

Christine Casey, one of the leaders of the CDC team that publishes weekly scientific reports ... told the House committee that at one point in August 2020 she received instructions to delete an email reflecting political interference.
Casey said Paul Alexander, the former temporary senior policy adviser to the assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS, instructed her to stop publishing the weekly reports, insinuating her team was trying to make Trump look bad in public.
After conversations with leadership at the CDC, including then-Director Robert Redfield, Michael Iademarco, one of the CDC's leaders overseeing epidemiology and laboratory services, told Casey to delete the email.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the former COVID task force coordinator at the Trump White House, recently testified that Dr. Scott Atlas, "a radiologist and White House adviser who frequently disagreed with the CDC, attempted to alter the agency's testing guidance":

He pressed the agency to rewrite its guidelines to underscore that only symptomatic individuals needed to get tested. His argument, at the time, was that the U.S. only needed to worry about those individuals who had Covid-19 and were experiencing symptoms such as fever and coughing because those were the people who could more easily spread the virus. ...
"This document resulted in less testing and less — less aggressive testing of those without symptoms that I believed were the primary reason for the early community spread," Birx said, adding that the change in the guidance was not based on science.

None of this should be a surprise. Trump and his regime committed these crimes against humanity in plain sight. These "revelations" are simply providing more evidence and clearer details of how and when these crimes took place.

In a recent Esquire article, Charles Pierce places the Trump regime's COVID crimes in a larger context:

The sheer contempt for active national leadership and the sheer disregard for the public health illustrated by this material has no parallel in American history. For the sake of their own public image — which, ironically, was headed for the storm drain anyway — members of the administration abandoned even their most rudimentary obligations as public servants. The country was denied the information it desperately needed because some time-servers and coat-holders were trying to avoid a tantrum from the Oval Office. We are lucky we survived this long.

Some may wonder why Trump and his inner circle were so reckless and bold, acting without apparent fear of any accountability or serious negative consequences? The answer is simple: Donald Trump is a fascist authoritarian and likely a sociopath. To his political cult members and the current Republican Party as a whole, he is essentially a demigod. Trump never intended to leave office. As the events of last Jan. 6 should make clear, Trump was willing to do virtually anything — including literally staging a coup — to remain in power.

There were many public warnings about Trump and the pandemic.

In a May 2020 interview with Salon, less than three months into the pandemic, epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves said this about his controversial use of the term "genocide":

Trump's pandemic response is not the same as Nazi Germany. It is not Rwanda. But Trump's response is something that is well beyond a policy mistake. One hundred thousand people are dead. There are likely to be 150,000 or perhaps even 200,000 dead from the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. The estimates are that two thirds or more of the deaths could have been prevented. ...
Moreover, it was premeditated. There were people in the White House and elsewhere warning Donald Trump, "People are going to die. We need to do something about this." And the White House made a concerted policy decision to let people die. Their response to the coronavirus was death by public policy.
We can parse words about whether that is manslaughter or mass negligence. Part of me, in retrospect, feels like using the word "genocide" made it too easy for some critics to deny the reality of the situation. Perhaps I should have said that the Trump White House's response to the coronavirus was a monumental error and a monumental sin and a monumental human rights violation. What the Trump administration is doing in response to the coronavirus is something we have not seen in the United States in a long time, which is basically wiping out a whole group of people by public policy.

In July 2020, psychologist Dr. John Gartner, a contributor to the bestselling book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump," offered his perspective:

Donald Trump's behavior with the coronavirus pandemic is intentional. He is malevolent. He is a first-degree mass murderer. This is a plan.
I am a great believer in the principle of Occam's razor. The simplest explanation is usually the right one. Trump disbanded the pandemic task force. First, Trump said that the virus was not going to come to America. Then he chose not to do more testing. Trump chose to not use the Defense Production Act to make more needed medical supplies and equipment.
Trump has admitted to trying to slow down the testing for the coronavirus. Trump has undermined the governors' efforts to protect the public from the virus. Trump even went so far as to encourage astroturf protests to intimidate Democratic governors into reopening for "the economy." Trump has said that he is against people wearing masks — which is the simplest, cheapest and most efficient way to keep us from spreading the virus.
Trump is trying to open the floodgates. He's hosting mass gatherings of people at his rallies and other events. He's doing everything he can to enable the virus.
Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is going to be the most successful bio-terrorist in human history. Let me repeat myself so there is no confusion. Donald Trump is the most successful bio-terrorist in human history. This is not an accident.

In August 2020, former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner expressed the view that Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic could be considered negligent homicide:

Some jurisdictions call this involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide. The lowest level of homicide has three elements to the crime, and Donald Trump satisfies them easily.
The first element is that a person commits an act in a grossly negligent manner. Or there is a duty to perform an act and a person fails to perform it in a grossly negligent matter.
There are many different pieces of evidence which show that Donald Trump has acted in a grossly negligent manner in the way he has handled or mishandled the coronavirus pandemic. Trump had a duty to act as president of the United States and he failed to act — and that failure was a product of gross negligence.
The second element of that type of homicide is that your grossly negligent act, or your grossly negligent failure to act, was reasonably calculated to result in serious bodily injury or death. With a deadly virus, the grossly negligent failure to act is reasonably likely to create serious bodily injury or death in another person.
The third element, which sounds like it is the toughest to overcome, is causation. The causation element says that a person acted in a grossly negligent manner where their failure to perform a duty or conduct or failure to act was reasonably likely to create death or serious bodily injury in another person.

What has the response been to the latest "revelations" about the Trump regime's acts of democide? Virtually nonexistent. The mainstream news media and the American people as a whole appear exhausted and bored by the Age of Trump and its continuing onslaughts. In the current media climate, new information about Trump and the pandemic barely registered as newsworthy before being discarded for the next controversy of the day.

To wit. Lili Loofbourow of Slate offered a valuable essay this week which highlights how the American people have been hardened into indifference about the country's escalating democracy crisis and the ongoing Republican coup:

No, people don't want to know anymore. People already know too much, and the knowledge hasn't profited them. They know about all the harms that were done to American institutions and American democracy while Trump was president. They also know what the much-ballyhooed Mueller report — each development of which many of them followed attentively — achieved: nothing. Why would the Jan. 6 commission would be any different? This is what happens when the "news" is that a nation's entire system of accountability is broken: Even the consequences that do get meted out start to feel weightless. Maybe the "QAnon shaman" goes to prison for four years (certainly some of the insurrectionists should). But everyone understands at this point that the actual instigators — including the ex-president and members of Congress who worked with and informed the rioters — are immune to consequences. So why read about it?

America's collective shrug toward the Trump regime's acts of negligent homicide are a surrender to the normalization of deviance, another example of how heretofore unfathomable behavior becomes "acceptable" or "normal" to a large segment of the public. Some psychologists describe this collective state as "malignant normality." Societies so afflicted lose a shared understanding of what constitutes truth and reality, and even a shared concept of time. In practice this means that individuals and groups cannot effectively fight back against the worsening catastrophe. This has made some of the worst crimes of human history possible.

Here's a thought experiment: If these same events, meaning Trump's handling of the pandemic and his regime's numerous other crimes against democracy and human decency, had taken place in another country, how would the American people and news media respond?

Such a country would be labeled as an international pariah. The regime and its leaders would be described as tyrants and criminals. There would be calls for regime change, and many members of the international community would demand that the wrongdoers be brought to trial for crimes against humanity at the Hague.

Thanks to the damaging myopia of American exceptionalism, no such thing will happen. Trump and his cabal will, in all likelihood, never face justice for their crimes against democracy and the American people. Such a thing is simply unimaginable to our national vanity. History indeed has a dark sense of humor, but this time the joke is on us.

American democracy is on the treadmill of doom: How do we get off?

America is in deep trouble — and I say that not out of hatred but out of love. James Baldwin once explained that he loved America "more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."

With little fanfare, last Monday was World Freedom Day. President Biden offered an obligatory public statement, including the somewhat dubious claim that since the fall of the Berlin Wall 32 years ago, "we have seen great progress to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as to build and consolidate democratic institutions across the formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and around the world." But democracy, the president admitted, "remains under threat" in many parts of the world where "we see aspiring autocrats trample the rule of law, attack freedom of the press, and undermine an independent judiciary."

Biden's proclamation continues:

Today, we reaffirm our commitment to the ideal that democracy — a Government of the people, by the people, and for the people — is how we best safeguard the rights, freedoms, and dignity that belong to every person. Together with other free nations, the United States remains committed to the vital work of strengthening our democratic institutions, defending civil society, advancing human rights, and holding those who commit abuses and foster corruption accountable.

It is a statement of what the United States wishes it were, not what it actually is, especially in this era of democracy crisis and ascendant neofascism. In total, there is something apprehensive and sad in this overly hopeful tribute, not to mention a hefty dose of denial. Biden's proclamation almost sounds like the words of a president who knows his country is losing a war, yet tells the public: "Victory is imminent! Do not despair!"

Many Americans can sense the country's inner turmoil and understand that something is very broken.

That despair and feeling of wrongness reflect a deep intuition, even if our language is often insufficient to capture it, that this American interregnum will resolve itself in a period of chaotic transformation and perhaps the defeat of multiracial democracy. But many millions of people remain in denial about America's escalating democracy crisis — or support the emerging fascist movement, mistaking it for "patriotism."

The democracy advocacy organization Freedom House reports that the "democracy score" of the United States has decreased by 11 points since 2010, placing it in a group of countries with the largest such declines by that measure. As Freedom House reported in March, the Trump administration worsened that trend significantly:

The final weeks of the Trump presidency featured unprecedented attacks on one of the world's most visible and influential democracies. After four years of condoning and indeed pardoning official malfeasance, ducking accountability for his own transgressions, and encouraging racist and right-wing extremists, the outgoing president openly strove to illegally overturn his loss at the polls, culminating in his incitement of an armed mob to disrupt Congress's certification of the results. ... Only a serious and sustained reform effort can repair the damage done during the Trump era to the perception and reality of basic rights and freedoms in the United States.

Groundbreaking research by the V-Dem institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden has found that the Republican Party has become so extreme that it more closely resembles openly right-wing authoritarian and fascist political parties in Europe and elsewhere than it does mainstream center-right parties like the Conservatives in Britain or the Christian Democratic Union in Germany.

As legal scholar Robert Kagan wrote in the Washington Post in September, "The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves." He concluded:

We are already in a constitutional crisis. The destruction of democracy might not come until November 2024, but critical steps in that direction are happening now. In a little more than a year, it may become impossible to pass legislation to protect the electoral process in 2024. Now it is impossible only because anti-Trump Republicans, and even some Democrats, refuse to tinker with the filibuster. It is impossible because, despite all that has happened, some people still wish to be good Republicans even as they oppose Trump. These decisions will not wear well as the nation tumbles into full-blown crisis.

Social scientists, investigative journalists and other experts have shown that even before American neofascism's rise that the country's status as a "democracy" was already imperiled by the power of the richest Americans and corporate oligarchs to set the political agenda while the concerns of the average American are all but ignored by elected officials and other elites.

The meaning and spirit of Biden's World Freedom Day proclamation is further complicated by how much the world's self-described "greatest democracy" now resembles the failed or aspiring democracies who supposedly look to it for inspiration.

There are too many examples to list in full, beginning of course with the coup attempt and violent assault on the U.S. Capitol last January. That coup attempt was not decisively defeated. Republican fascists and their propaganda machine are using the Big Lie, claiming that the 2020 election was stolen and Biden's presidency is illegitimate to further discredit and undermine American democracy.

That propaganda campaign has been highly effective: A large percentage if not majority of Republican voters believe that Trump is somehow still the real president, that the 2020 election was fraudulent, and the Democratic Party is an enemy of "real" Americans. Public opinion and other research has also shown that a large percentage of Republican voters and Trump supporters are willing to accept or condone political violence and other forms of terrorism in order to "protect" their "traditional way of life."

Across the country, Republicans and their anti-democracy operatives are enacting laws and other policies (such as partisan gerrymandering) aimed at preventing Black and brown people and other Democratic Party's constituencies from voting or otherwise receiving fair representation. Channeling the Jim Crow reign of terror, the Republicans are also using threats of violence and other forms of intimidation — including potentially armed "poll watchers" and "election police" — in an effort to suppress or restrict the votes of Black and brown people, among others.

In perhaps their greatest success, the Republican fascists, along with their propagandists and dream merchants, have also undermined the very idea of truth and empirical reality itself. Tens of millions of people exist in a right-wing echo chamber structured by conspiracy theory, anti-intellectualism, irrationality, hatred, and where authoritarianism is worshipped as a civic religion and personal identity.

Too many liberals or "moderates" have deluded themselves into believing that rational dialogue or factual evidence can somehow persuade the Republican fascists and other members of the right wing to abandon their alternate reality. But such appeals to logic and reason hold little power over the emotional pleasures to be found in fascism.

Democratic leaders, the Biden administration and the Department of Justice are not acting with the necessary urgency to investigate and punish Donald Trump and other collaborators for the crimes of Jan. 6 and their ongoing coup attempt. Without the rule of law and justice, democracy will die.

America's democracy crisis, when viewed in the context of the many other crises facing the country and the world, has led to the anxious coping behavior known as "doom-scrolling," in which each individual dreadful event is lost amid many others in a never-ending stream.

We might more accurately described how the American people — at least those who are paying attention and remain invested in saving democracy — are stuck on a "doom treadmill," which is creating a sense of physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual exhaustion. The only way to escape is to run faster than the infernal machine forces those stuck on it — but most Americans lack the strength and endurance to do so.

What can be done?

Pro-democracy Americans must ally with others locally to find mutual aid and support in what will likely be a long struggle against American fascism. It's not enough to support Democratic candidates and other "mainstream" political figures or organizations. Normal politics, almost by definition, is insufficient to defeat fascism. Political pragmatism will be required to prevail in this struggle.

Collective action will also be necessary — strikes, protests and other forms of corporeal politics and direct action — to confront and cause substantive consequences for those political leaders, businesses and organizations who support the Republican fascists and their movement.

Americans who support democracy need to share information, knowledge and other resources, in order to help create an alternative public sphere as a counterbalance to the Republican-fascist assault on truth and reality. As survivors of authoritarian regimes in other times and places have suggested, keeping a private journal is a valuable way to document the changes in society as neofascism gains power. When reality is under siege it becomes the responsibility of individuals and small groups to maintain some form of documentary record.

Democracy is a noun and a verb. Doing the work necessary to defend and reinvigorate American democracy will not be easy and cannot be understood as a short-term endeavor. As we have seen in the U.S. and other countries, this is likely to be an intergenerational struggle.

In a recent essay, anti-racism educator and activist Tim Wise observed: "Maintaining democracy, a livable planet, or a functioning society is like any other job. If you don't work at it, it doesn't get done." Fascists, he noted, "are the only ones showing up and punching the clock. They don't "take a break from the news," and they don't "do nomadism, digital or otherwise. They show the fuck up."

Pro-democracy Americans must internalize the wisdom of others who have fought (and won) similar battles. That is certainly the best way to create solidarity and finding energy and inspiration for what will often be thankless or even dangerous political work.

The Italian philosopher and activist Antonio Gramsci famously spoke of the need for "pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will" in the battle against authoritarianism. That combination will surely be necessary — but then the fundamental question becomes: Do the American people want a real democracy — and are enough of them willing to work and sacrifice to reclaim that possibility as reality?

Still hate Hillary? She was right about Trump then — and she's right now

If you still hate Hillary Clinton for some reason, time to get over it. She was right about Donald Trump and his movement in 2016, and she's right now.

During the presidential campaign five years ago, Clinton made the simple observation that a large percentage of Donald Trump's followers could be considered a "basket of deplorables" because of their racism, white supremacy, nativism, misogyny, religious hatred and other retrograde antisocial values and beliefs.

As I wrote here several weeks ago, "In many ways, Clinton was too kind. If anything, she underestimated how many Americans were in fact committed and enthusiastic human deplorables":

After that speech, Clinton was pilloried by the mainstream news media, some leading Democrats, and of course the Republican Party and right-wing propaganda hate machine. Clinton's characterization of Trump's "basket of deplorables" was described as insensitive and unfair to the "white working class" Americans that elites and out-of-touch Democrats had too often ignored.

That reaction to Clinton's truth-telling helped to legitimate Trumpism and American neofascism (operating under the mask of "populism") as something that was reasonable and understandable, rather than as a manifestation of racial resentment, a racist temper tantrum and a declaration of white supremacy. This reflected our society's deep investment in a narrative of white racial innocence. In that logic, America is a great and exceptional country, and by implication, this is especially true of white people — especially those "real Americans" whose supposed patriotism and presumed Christian values render them a bit more American than anyone else

In the weeks since then, evidence has only mounted on the seriousness of the Trump regime's coup plot and how close the United States came to succumbing to a Republican fascist revolution. That coup attempt has not ended. Indeed, it is escalating, and America is fast approaching a point of no return.

The response to my essay about Clinton's warnings about Trump's "deplorables" was an outpouring of rage from self-described progressives, leftists, liberals and others who claim to oppose Donald Trump. In essence, it was a lot of people who seemed to be psychologically decompensating or in the midst of an emotional breakdown. These reactions were rooted in unrestrained hatred toward Hillary Clinton — and, in this case, toward anyone who would dare to suggest she was ever correct about anything.

By this point, Clinton must be used to such reactions. To her credit — and unlike many other members of the American political elite — she is speaking out now even more boldly and clearly about the specific threat posed to American democracy and society by Donald Trump and the politically psychopathic Republican-fascist movement.

In a recent interview at the Atlantic Festival of Ideas, Clinton discussed the decades-long trajectory that brought America the disastrous events of Jan. 6:

... [U]nfortunately, I see a line from what I saw and tried to describe in the '90s through the beginning of this century, the first 20 years of it, and the role that Donald Trump and his enablers and others played in creating this absolute cauldron of conspiracy and hatred and anger and looking for explanations and scapegoats. I sadly think that the seeds were planted long ago, but they have been watered vigorously in recent years.

She then focused on the years since her own presidential campaign, which have seen the Republican Party openly embrace a plan to nullify American democracy:

So the parallels between what happened in 2016 and 2020 are not often understood. And why that's important is, the Republicans — and now we have to say the Republican Party, not just the Trumpers and all of those who are part of this effort to undermine our democracy, but the Republican Party — were shocked that they lost, because they never thought that they would lose by such narrow margins and, we know, accurately and legitimately in places like Georgia or Arizona. So what are they going to do now? Now they're not only going to try to suppress votes on steroids; they're going to try to change the way elections are determined. They're going to try to give legislatures the power to basically throw out elections if they don't go their way, because now they want to be able to win, even if they lose the popular vote and they legitimately lose the Electoral College.

Clinton observed that she personally knew many of the leading Republicans "who are lining up and saluting Trumpism," adding, "They're giving up their values, their common sense. ... It's amazing." She concluded:

We're looking at a phenomenon that is fueled not just by political calculation, partisan advantage, personal survival as a politician. We're looking at a cultural phenomenon even more than a political phenomenon. The audience for anger, for fear or hatred, is so large in America right now, and as I said earlier, sadly, much of the responsibility has to lie with the tech companies who have been the channels for creating that kind of information system that we are now living with.

Clinton is again showing herself to be an astute observer of America's democracy crisis and the role of the Republican Party in a decade-long plan to undermine or overthrow the country's multiracial democracy. And once again, too many people will, a priori, reject her insights because they remain afflicted with Hillary Derangement Syndrome.

But the important lesson here has little to do with Hillary Clinton in particular. Defeating the Republican-fascist movement will require political pragmatism, in the form of alliances between individuals and groups who in the near past have opposed one another — and who no doubt will again in the future — but are now united in defense of democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law.

America's democracy crisis truly is an "all hands on deck" emergency. There is little room for ideologues except where all parties can work towards a shared goal of defeating the Republican fascists, along with their followers, allies and agents.

In an open letter first published at the New Republic and The Bulwark — co-authored by journalism professor Todd Gitlin, political scientist Jeffrey C. Isaac and conservative commentator William Kristol, and co-signed by dozens of prominent academics, journalists and activists — this argument for a common-front alliance was made explicit. It begins:

We are writers, academics, and political activists who have long disagreed about many things.
Some of us are Democrats and others Republicans. Some identify with the left, some with the right, and some with neither. We have disagreed in the past, and we hope to be able to disagree, productively, for years to come. Because we believe in the pluralism that is at the heart of democracy.

But right now we agree on a fundamental point: We need to join together to defend liberal democracy.
Because liberal democracy itself is in serious danger. Liberal democracy depends on free and fair elections, respect for the rights of others, the rule of law, a commitment to truth and tolerance in our public discourse. All of these are now in serious danger.

The primary source of this danger is one of our two major national parties, the Republican Party, which remains under the sway of Donald Trump and Trumpist authoritarianism. Unimpeded by Trump's defeat in 2020 and unfazed by the January 6 insurrection, Trump and his supporters actively work to exploit anxieties and prejudices, to promote reckless hostility to the truth and to Americans who disagree with them, and to discredit the very practice of free and fair elections in which winners and losers respect the peaceful transfer of power.

In an essay for Common Dreams, Isaac explains how this "friendly collaboration" between ideological foes came about:

Some of our signatories have long been aligned with the anti-war movement and with the Sanders wing of the Democratic party. Some have been aligned with the more centrist Obama-Clinton-Biden wing. Some were supporters of John McCain or Mitt Romney, and some — most notably Bill Kristol — were supporters of George W. Bush and of Ronald Reagan before him. ...

We have not checked our differences at the door. And yet we have come together precisely because we regard these differences as important, and we believe that if the forces of Know Nothingism, racism, and reaction associated with Trumpism prevail, we will all suffer. Our political differences are real. And our joint commitment to democracy is grounded in those very differences.

Many who will read this will be angry about what some of our signatories have said or done in the past. This is understandable. … This does not require us to like all of those with whom we join—though we have made some real friendships through this collaboration—nor does it require us to forget about their pasts or our own pasts.

It simply requires us to acknowledge the ethical and political importance of coming together, across differences, to defend the things that we value in common.

Perhaps Benjamin Franklin said it best, at another moment when some very different people came together to oppose the tyranny of their time: "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."

As the first drafts of history are being written about this dire historical period, one important theme will be about how many pro-democracy Americans worked together, often quietly or in secret, from the highest levels of government, including the military and the national security agencies, to the local and state levels and across civil society more broadly, in an effort to stop the Trump regime's plot to nullify the 2020 presidential election.

Those afflicted with Hillary Derangement Syndrome should feel free to bray at the moon, scream into the wind or do whatever else is necessary to get that energy out of their system. But this is a moment to join in alliance with others, across ordinary lines of politics and ideology, to stop the Republican-fascist movement. Sometimes the enemy of my enemy really is my friend.

The American people are caught between sadistic Republicans and masochistic 'centrist' Democrats

As United States senators from West Virginia and Arizona, respectively, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are supposed to represent the interests of approximately nine million people.

But because of their self-appointed positions in the Senate as "centrists" — which is to say, "Vichy Democrats" who largely follow the lead of Republican fascists and corporate oligarchs — Manchin and Sinema have become the fulcrum upon which the Democratic Party's tenuous majority, and its political fortunes, pivots.

In practice, they are using their disproportionate power in an antiquated legislative body to hold hundreds of millions of Americans as political hostages.

Consider this: The policies included in Joe Biden and the Democratic Party's Build Back Better plan are remarkably popular — certainly among Democrats, but also among Republicans. Economists and other experts have shown that the Build Back Better plan is an investment in America's prosperity that would pay for itself, and more, in the decades ahead.

In a state with disproportionately high rates of poverty, such as West Virginia, the Build Back Better plan could have a dramatic and positive impact. Joe Manchin has apparently concluded that his self-interest in the form of millions in direct profits from the coal industry is more important than the collective needs — and, literally, the lives — of the people of West Virginia.

Likewise, Kyrsten Sinema appears to have concluded that campaign donations and other potential incentives from pharmaceutical companies are more important than supporting the Build Back Better plan, which would make a significant difference in the lives of people in Arizona and across the United States.

Power corrupts; for those people whose moral character is already weak and wavering, the temptations of power can be too difficult to resist. Ultimately, as the axiom suggests, those who seek out power are often the people least equipped to wield it responsibly.

In an article recently featured at Salon, Thom Hartmann describes Sinema's and Manchin's behavior (and that of others of the same kind) as an example of the legal theft and corruption made possible by the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision:

Sinema quickly joined other Democrats who'd followed the Citizens United path to the flashing neon lights of big money, joining the so-called Problem Solvers caucus that owes its existence in part to the Wall Street-funded front group No Labels.
Quietly and without fanfare, she began voting with Republicans and the corporate- and billionaire-owned Democrats, supporting efforts to deregulate big banks, "reform" Social Security and Medicare, and make it harder for government to protect regular investors — or even buyers of used cars to avoid being ripped off.
Sinema voted with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 77 percent of the time in her first term [as a House member]; in return, political networks run by right-wing billionaires and the Chamber showered her with support. In her first re-election race, in 2014, she was one of only five Democrats endorsed by the notoriously right-wing Chamber.
She'd proved herself as a "made woman," just like the old mafiosi ... [of] the 1960s, willing to do whatever it takes, compromise whatever principles she espoused, to get into and stay in the good graces of the large and well-funded right-wing syndicates unleashed by Citizens United.
So it should surprise precisely nobody that Sinema is parroting the Chamber's and the billionaire network's line that President Biden's Build Back Better plan is too generous in helping and protecting average Americans and too punitive in taxing the morbidly rich. After all, once you're in, you leave at your own considerable peril, even when 70 percent of your state's voters want the bill to pass.

In a statement released Monday, Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri discussed Manchin's brinksmanship and political hostage-taking, which is causing grievous harm to some of America's most vulnerable communities:

Joe Manchin does not get to dictate the future of our country. I do not trust his assessment of what our communities need the most. I trust the parents in my district who can't get to their shift without childcare. I trust the scientists who have shown us what our future will look like if we fail to meaningfully address the climate crisis. I trust the patients and doctors crying out for comprehensive health coverage for every person in America….
We cannot spend the next year saying, "The House did its part, and now it's the Senate's turn." We need the Senate to actually get this done.
Joe Manchin's opposition to the Build Back Better Act is anti-Black, anti-child, anti-woman, and anti-immigrant. When we talk about transformative change, we are talking about a bill that will benefit Black, brown, and Indigenous communities.
We cannot leave anyone behind. Sen. Manchin must support the Build Back Better Act.

Manchin and Sinema, along with the Republican Party, are subjecting the American people to financial abuse. That is not a metaphor but a clinical term. The National Network to End Domestic Violence defines it this way:

Financial abuse is a common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship. … In some cases, financial abuse is present throughout the relationship and in other cases financial abuse becomes present when the survivor is attempting to leave or has left the relationship. Financial abuse, while less commonly understood, is one of the most powerful methods of keeping a survivor trapped in an abusive relationship and deeply diminishes the victim's ability to stay safe after leaving an abusive partner.

Financial abuse occurs in almost all domestic violence cases. A financial abuser's attributes include (among other things) manipulative and controlling behavior tied to money; claims to be entitled to the money and financial resources of others; expecting others to pay their bills; threats to deny money to others without warning; a double standard regarding how they spend money, compared to other people; and the use of intimidating, threatening and other abusive behavior to control money.

Sadists need masochists. For the true sadist, it does not matter if the masochists are consenting partners. For decades the Republican Party has demonstrated that it enjoys inflicting pain and suffering on the American people. The rise of Trumpism and the American neofascist movement has given permission for ever more extreme sadism. As Noam Chomsky recently put it in an interview with Jacobin, the Republican Party is effectively a "gang of radical sadists."

The "moderate" Democrats so devoted to "bipartisanship" have shown themselves to be self-flagellating masochists, partners in an unhealthy relationship where they are repeatedly abused and made to suffer. For whatever personal or political reasons, they keep returning to the Republican sadists with the expectation that things will change, which of course they do not.

The American people are caught between the sadists and masochists, the Republicans and the "centrist" Democrats. Whatever masochistic pleasure Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin may derive from orchestrating this perverse scene, it is the American people who continue to suffer most.

'Lost sheep': Conspiracy theory expert says QAnon believers are being swallowed by 'mass radicalization'

America's mainstream news media has a short attention span, which has certainly played to the advantage of the long-running Republican-fascist assault on democracy (and on reality). Of late, the media has grown bored with QAnon, the antisemitic and racist conspiracy cult which claims to believes that a secret cabal of pedophile Democrats and other members of the "deep state" run the world — and gain superpowers from kidnapping and killing children and then ingesting their vital essence. In this demented worldview, only Donald Trump and other "patriots" can save America and the world.

It appears that QAnon followers played a significant role in the attack on the Capitol and coup attempt on Jan. 6. No leaders of that coup plot have been apprehended or punished, and most of the foot soldiers have received relatively lenient punishment to this point. President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland appear reluctant to apply the full power of the law to punish Donald Trump, along with his allies, operatives and followers.

QAnon followers are also attempting to undermine American democracy and civil society by infiltrating such "vulnerable" sites as local school boards, library committees and other ground-level institutions of local and state government. Their purported goal may be to ban the teaching of "critical race theory" (which is not taught in public schools), but the real goal is larger: to enforce punishment of "unpatriotic" thoughtcrimes, and to mainstream right-wing conspiracy theories and other lies about American history.

QAnon followers are also seeking to become election officials, where they are planning to use the fervor around Trump's Big Lie and other conspiracy theories to rig election results, overthrow multiracial democracy and replace it with one-party Republican rule.

In an article posted last June, the National Education Association explored the QAnon-fueled "radicalization" of school boards in communities all over America:

In a small town in Washington State, the newly elected mayor calls QAnon, "a truth movement," and recently fired the town's skeptical city manager. In coastal San Luis Obispo, California, a school board trustee's Facebook posts include a QAnon video, misinformation about COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, and promotion of the ex-gay, conversion movement. She won, says the town's mayor, who is calling for her resignation, because "people had no idea this was going on," and didn't have the "bandwidth to research the school board election," reports the local newspaper, the Tribune.

Meanwhile, in Florida, a newly elected county sheriff is now explaining why he posed for photos last year with a supporter in a "We are Q" t-shirt.

Across the county, conspiracy theorists and proponents of fake news are winning local elections. And their new positions give them a powerful voice in everything from local law enforcement to libraries, trash pickup to textbook purchases.

QAnon followers are also gaining influence and power within white Christian evangelical churches and other faith communities. This is integral to the worsening radicalization of white Christianity and the threat of a right-wing "holy war" against Democrats, liberals, progressives, Black and brown people and anyone else who believes in the separation of church and state, or who holds values and beliefs deemed "un-American" or "anti-Christian."

Public opinion polls and other research show that a large percentage of Republicans and Trump followers say they believe in at least portions of the outlandish QAnon fantasy and — not coincidentally — are also willing to support right-wing political violence to protect their "traditional way of life" and "save the country." This includes removing President Joe Biden from office by violent means if deemed necessary.

Matthew Rozsa of Salon summarized these findings this week:

New public opinion research from the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute, part of its 12th annual American Values Survey, has returned alarming findings.

Close to one-third of Republicans in the survey, or 30%, agreed with the statement that "true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country." That was more than the combined total of Democrats and independents who say the same thing (at 11% and 17%, respectively).

PRRI CEO and founder Robert Jones said the large proportion of Republicans who appear ready to endorse political violence is "a direct result of former President Trump calling into question the election." Jones noted that according to the same survey, more than two-thirds of Republicans (68%) claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump, as opposed to only 26% of independents and 6% of Democrats.

The study also found that 39% of those who believed that Trump had won the 2020 election endorsed potential violence, compared to only 10% of those who rejected election misinformation. There were also signs of a split based on media consumption, with 40% of Republicans who trust far-right news sources agreeing that violence could be necessary, compared to 32% of those who trust Fox News and 22% among those who trust mainstream outlets. In addition, respondents who said violence may be necessary are more likely to report feeling like strangers in their country, to say American culture has mostly worsened since the 1950s and to believe that God has granted America a special role in human history.

Sophia Moskalenko is a social psychologist and expert on conspiracy theories, radicalization and extremism. She is currently a research fellow at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (NC-START) and is the author of several books, including "Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us" and "The Marvel of Martyrdom: The Power of Self-Sacrifice in the Selfish World." Her new book, with co-author Mia Bloom, is "Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon."

In this conversation Moskalenko discusses the dangers QAnon poses to American democracy and national security. She explains that QAnon is a community where overwhelmingly white and often socially alienated followers find fellowship and meaning as they are radicalized into extremism and other potentially dangerous antisocial behavior. In her view, QAnon functions as a space that nurtures and satisfies white fantasies of right-wing masculinity, femininity, violence and heroism about "protecting" children and reasserting "traditional values".

Toward the end of this conversation, Moskalenko explains what she would tell Joe Biden and other senior members of the administration about the threats posed by right-wing terrorism, as well as about the ways hostile foreign powers are using disinformation and other forms of propaganda to weaken American democracy and society.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

You are an expert on terrorism and other forms of political extremism. You are also an expert on propaganda and disinformation. How are you feeling right now, given America's democracy crisis?

I've been feeling a little bit like Cassandra, the woman in Troy who was yelling as loud as he could about the city falling to ruin, and everybody was laughing at her. Then of course her warnings came true. It doesn't feel good. There was so much attention being paid to Islamic terrorism after 9/11. Unfortunately, there was not enough attention being paid to the trends right here in the United States domestically. This was all very alarming for somebody such as me who is an expert on terrorism and radicalization. These trends pointed to how right-wing groups were attracting more people and carrying out more and more lethal attacks.

There were people in positions of power and influence here in the United States who were beginning to pander increasingly to these groups. And of course, Trump's presidency was a type of pinnacle for that behavior. Those appeals to right-wing extremist groups are now crystallized in congressional representatives who are outspoken supporters of QAnon conspiracy theories.

There was also Trump's line after the riots in Charlottesville about "good people on both sides," which implies that maybe Nazis aren't so bad. This problem has been developing for a long time.

When you looked at the events of Jan. 6, what did you see? What jumped out at you?

I'm a psychologist, so I focused on the emotions that I observed in the faces, the screams and the actions of the Trump followers who were there that day at the Capitol.

It was just striking to me how angry and violent and ready to inflict serious damage a lot of those people were. On Jan. 6, I saw a huge crowd of people who look just like my neighbors but who were acting in a very threatening and menacing way. It was disturbing. I also, of course, saw many QAnon symbols and antisemitic symbols and other references to hate groups.

I was also struck by the composition of the people at the Capitol on Jan. 6. They were very diverse in terms of age and gender. From the Arab Spring to images from the Ukrainian revolution or Georgian revolution, we mostly see men carrying out these mass radical actions. But on Jan. 6 at the Capitol, we saw a lot of women. There were many young people and also people in their 60s and 70s. That is very unusual, in many ways, as far as radical movements go.

There were various right-wing extremist groups and other forces involved in the events of Jan. 6. What role did QAnon conspiracy believers play?

We know that between 10% and 20% of people present at the Jan. 6 insurrection were members of right-wing militia groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. A sizable proportion of those groups also consisted of active-duty military or veterans. Those militia groups also include active or retired police.

As for QAnon members, after Jan. 6 when the prophecy about Trump's return was unfulfilled, a number of QAnon followers became disenchanted. They went back online looking for answers, like they did before they found QAnon. Now they are looking for something else.

There was a concerted effort by the right-wing extremist groups to bring them in, because they were like lost sheep. The way these groups and individuals talk about the QAnon types is very dismissive. They call them idiots. They call the QAnon prophecy nonsense. But they felt this was an opportunity to recruit a bunch of disenchanted QAnoners into their ranks.

We know that both QAnon and the right-wingers I am discussing here are very antisemitic and racist. Whatever they may say about it, we know from the data we have collected from their own materials that they express clearly antisemitic and racist attitudes. In that aspect there is an overlap, at least psychologically, between QAnon and these right-wing extremists.

"I am Q." We see that language everywhere among the QAnon believers. What is the meaning?

"Q" is a mysterious person, or likely several people. This person or persons has "Q-level" government clearance, which indicates they are supposedly quite high in America's intelligence hierarchy. So while a given person may claim to be "Q," another way of thinking about the meaning of "Q" is that it is an expression of a larger identity. We are in the era of identity politics. Wearing some clothing that announces that one believes in QAnon is a way of projecting that membership and identity.

Wearing that symbol is also a way to connect to other QAnon followers. Because again, especially at these mass rallies or events, people come there for many different reasons, including a shared emotional experience, whether it's rage or hope or even fear. That is the attraction of being together with all these other people who are experiencing the same emotions – even if they are negative emotions. It's a way of establishing your tribe. In a rapidly changing world where we often do not know who our neighbors are, it can be very isolating and very unsettling to not have a tribe.

Carrying something like a big letter "Q" on your chest or over your head is likely an attempt to feel connected with other people who believe similar things.

One key aspect of QAnon is how it is a space for white male fantasies of power, home and family, and about using violence to "protect" children, women, faith and community. QAnon is also a space for fantasies about a particular type of white womanhood and femininity.

Much of QAnon behavior and beliefs are rooted in entertainment. In fact, they borrowed many of their tropes from traditional folklore, like vampires and witches, and also from Hollywood movies. Experimental research has shown that people are compelled to conspiracy theories because they are a lot better at eliciting strong emotions. Some people seek out conspiracy theories because they offer a chance to feel fear, like a horror movie, or anger, such as in a revenge movie.

At the same time, QAnon fills a void that was created when single-earner households where the dad goes to work and the mom stays home in her white little apron were increasingly not viable for most Americans. Such an idea, that a lot of white middle-class men and women grew up with, is no longer available to them. What is left behind are feelings of disillusionment, anger, grievance.

Of course, many of these grievances are then redirected by these QAnon or right-wing narratives more broadly towards immigrants who are supposedly taking the good jobs or taking money out of the economy that would have been enough to make the American dream possible for "real" Americans. Channeling that anger into a hatred toward minorities or immigrants is one way to make sense of their new reality.

QAnon is also a fantasy of action and about the ability of individuals to have agency in their own lives — albeit in delusional, dangerous and unhealthy ways. For example, this deranged belief that children are being held hostage by evil forces who drink their blood is likely to encourage people to get their weapons and go save them. How do these QAnon fantasies play out on the individual level?

QAnon really grew in power and popularity when the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter protests were also becoming more prominent. For a lot of women, it was an uncomfortable political conversation that they did not feel ready to have. This idea about saving children then became a safe political alternative for white suburban women to discuss. In their minds, who wouldn't want to save the children?

These QAnon "save the children" ads often portray white children who are being held roughly or muzzled by dark hands. It's a man of color holding this child. This is in contrast to the real Save the Children charity's posters, which overwhelmingly depict children from African and Asian countries who are smiling and laughing in the pictures. By comparison, the QAnon pictures show horrified, abused and generally unkempt kids who elicit sympathy and distress by their appearance alone.

These QAnon "save the children" ads are just a kind of placeholder, I believe, to project their racial discomfort and political beliefs with people who feel the same way — and to do without really calling things by their actual name.

How do you assess the Republican Party and the larger right-wing movement's use of stochastic terrorism? Are we at a tipping point where that stochastic terrorism could become direct encouragements to violence against "the enemy"?

I believe that we are past the tipping point. Hate speech has been increasing for a number of years. I published a book in 2018 where I traced trends for hate speech online, including on Facebook and Twitter. There was a very sizable increase since before the 2016 election, with hate speech becoming more and more prevalent.

For example, the rise of Nazism involved the use of dehumanizing language and other propaganda comparing Jewish people and others to vermin and cockroaches. Jews were depicted as being less than human, which makes it easier to call on people to exterminate them.

The language used by the Nazis might sound familiar in the present because it's also what we hear from places like OAN or Fox News about immigrants, especially in the context of COVID. As seen with the increasing number of attacks against the Asian and Asian American communities, we can see how such hate speech has an impact.

The question is now whether we will see more mass events such as the Jan. 6 insurrection, which require coordination, movement across the country, money and other resources. I am really hoping that the authorities who are tasked with preventing another such event are doing their jobs.

Donald Trump and his spokespeople and other agents have created a martyrs out of his follower who was killed by law enforcement in the Capitol on Jan. 6. The Trumpists and right-wing propaganda media are now referring to members of Trump's attack force as "political prisoners," who are by implication innocent and heroic. How do you explain to the public the importance of this narrative and the political work it is doing?

This is a classic move. We saw it in Nazi Germany. We also saw it in the Soviet Union. Mythologized martyrdoms manufactured sometimes literally out of nothing. In Nazi Germany before World War II, they created a fake martyr out of a man named Horst Wessel. He became a huge martyr, and it was completely fabricated.

Martyrdoms in general are a hugely potent mass radicalization weapon. A martyr always inspires followers who will make self-sacrifices of their own. And it always challenges opponents to prove that their values are not morally bankrupt and that they too can pay the cost in blood to support the cause they believe in. There is always conflict in the wake of a martyrdom, including a fake martyrdom.

What Donald Trump and his spokespeople are doing is capitalizing on the potential of right-wing martyrdom. Whether or not this is going to catch on like Horst Wessel's did depends on how ready the public is to carry the banner of fake martyrdom. Because any martyrdom is always a symphony between the individual and the public, even a true martyr will not inspire followers if they are not ready to make sacrifices in the name of the cause.

A fake martyr, on the other hand, can appeal to millions, as in Nazi Germany or in Soviet Union, if they are ready to jump on the bandwagon and express their rage in the name of the martyr.

What are you most concerned about in this crisis and going forward?

I am most concerned about mass radicalization and the related hatred and intolerance.

What advice would you give President Biden and other senior leadership?

Try not to pay attention to red herrings. Things like QAnon are a red herring. Try to not lose the forest for the trees. We have a massive right-wing radicalization problem in the United States where the followers are mobilized and armed and actively training. They have military or police training. They are also actively recruiting from those ranks. The resources should be going to confront that problem.

Do not discount the influence of malicious foreign actors, such as Russia and China. They are a lot more experienced with the weaponization of information and concocting propaganda narratives that are going to spread like wildfire and sow discord and mobilize people. The United States needs to catch up with their capabilities in that regard, and to protect ourselves in a way that we are not doing right now.

We need to do better with the social media giants about holding them accountable for what is taking place on their platforms. That means we need to demand that they become a lot more transparent, such as by sharing how they use algorithms and who they allow to dominate the discourse. At the moment, it's a complete black box. We need to hold those huge business entities responsible. They're like a type of public square — they need to be regulated.

What if we learn the full details of Trump's coup plot — but the American people don't care?

Reality is being rewritten before our eyes. Some Americans can see this, and understand it. The results include an inescapable feeling of dread and doom. The frustration mounts because as a group those who see the truth and are ready to speak it do not yet have the full vocabulary required to make sense of it all.

Too many other Americans appear not to care about the blatant effort by the Republican fascists and others to rewrite reality. They are indifferent or tired, or just so hyper-focused on their own lives that nihilism and surrender are preferable to confrontation and engagement. Others are either incapable or unwilling, or remain in a profound state of denial.

This is not a claim about some grand secret conspiracy. It's an observation about how people function in a society caught in an interregnum, that time of in-betweenness when the old is giving way to something new (and potentially something horrible), when truth and reality are being dismembered by fascists and their fellow travelers. It all feels like a confusing slow blur.

For those of us who do care and who choose to see the truth, what do we do when the final form, the entire ugliness behind America's crisis of democracy, is finally revealed?

On Jan. 6, Donald Trump and his cabal attempted a coup to overthrow American democracy. As part of that coup plot, Trump's followers launched a lethal terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol. These events were publicly announced by Trump, his spokespeople, allies and followers. America's political elites, including too many among the news media, chose to ignore these warnings or somehow convince themselves that it was all "hyperbole."

With a few notable exceptions, the mainstream news media and other public voices described the right-wing terrorist attack on the Capitol in relatively benign terms as the acts of a "disorganized mob" or as something "spontaneous" and "shocking."

Donald Trump and his propagandists and co-conspirators, on the other hand, created their own alternate reality in which Jan. 6 was a festive gathering, a "regular day" when many "tourists" decided to visit the Capitol.

Alternatively, the right-wing propaganda machine argued that, yes, there was political violence, but it was actually committed by antifa or Black Lives Matter activists, as part of a false flag operation to harm Trump and the Republican Party's supposedly pristine reputation.

It's all a lie, of course. But public opinion polls and other evidence reveal that a large majority of Republicans and Trump supporters — as though there were some meaningful distinction between those groups — believe in the Big Lie and the many little lies that support it.

As more information about how close Donald Trump and his cabal really came to nullifying the 2020 election has become known, the language has shifted. Now the mainstream media says "insurrection" rather than "mob." That's certainly a more accurate description, but it still fails to capture the scale of the Trump cabal's efforts to overthrow American democracy.

"Insurrection" suggests something momentary, as opposed to a sustained attack whose result would be a long-term and perhaps permanent change in American society and government. Trump and his forces wanted to spark a fascist revolution in America; Jan. 6 was not intended as a one-off outburst of white authoritarian fascist rage.

In her review of the new HBO documentary "Four Hours at the Capitol," Sophie Gilbert of the Atlantic grapples with the question of what language to use in describing those events:

In the days and weeks after the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, commentators and media outlets grappled with the question of what to call that event. Language is sticky; it clarifies and obfuscates the truth depending on who's wielding it. January 6 was described as or likened to a "riot," a "tourist visit," an "insurrection," a "peaceful protest," and a "coup attempt." And yet, watching Four Hours at the Capitol, Jamie Roberts's tight, unsettling new HBO documentary about that day, another word seemed more appropriate to me, one that most of the participants interviewed in the film might agree on. More than anything else, January 6 was war….
With his rigidly chronological framing and his interviews with people who were present at the Capitol that day, [director Jamie] Roberts captures the extent to which both sides were engaging in combat. This dynamic emerges over and over again throughout different accounts and video clips. One clash between Capitol Police officers and pro-Trump extremists is referred to by a participant as "the battle for the tunnel." Different interviewees describe fighting on "the front line," engaging in "hand-to-hand combat," and, in the case of one police officer, the strangeness of walking through his own colleagues' blood. In a scene that seems ripped right out of a Bruce Willis movie, a police commander shouts, "We are not losing the U.S. Capitol today, do you hear me?"

Gilbert continues by observing that Capitol Police are of course equipped to deal with violent threats, but are "not trained for warfare, which is what must have made January 6 and their task of defending the U.S. Capitol seem so absurd." It was the first time hostile forces had invaded the Capitol in large numbers since the War of 1812. What the film captures, Gilbert concludes, is simple: "Pro-Trump forces went to war against the American officers charged with defending democracy."

A series of recent books, most notably Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's "Peril," have offered evidence that Trump and his allies were following a detailed plan meant to replace our democratic system with an autocracy where Trump would remain president indefinitely. This plan came close to succeeding.

Rolling Stone reports that dozens of meetings occurred between Trump's coup plotters and those others who organized the rallies on Jan. 6 which served as a staging ground for the attack on the Capitol. At least one high-ranking Trump White House official and several Republican members of Congress allegedly took part in these meetings.

Donald Trump and his allies are continuing to encourage right-wing political violence as part of the "Big Lie" strategy to undermine Joe Biden's presidency and to further radicalize the supporters of the Republican fascist movement.

Unfortunately, Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice have so far done nothing to hold Trump and other leaders of the coup plot accountable for their apparent crimes. Biden and the Democratic leadership are also not exerting the pressure necessary to ensure that Trump and his co-conspirators are punished to the maximum extent of the law.

At the Nation, Elie Mystal laments that the DOJ's failure "to investigate the planning of the putsch is all the more shameful given the publicly available evidence that the insurrectionists may have had help on the inside":

For instance: The people who sacked the Capitol made a beeline for the Senate parliamentarian's office. Pictures after the putsch showed that the office had been ransacked. The location of that office is not obvious; it's one of those places that is hard to find unless you've been there before. But the insurrectionists somehow got there and began looking for the hard copies of the electoral votes that Congress was meant to certify that day. Had they gotten their hands on those votes, even for a moment, they would have broken the chain of custody of the Electoral College count and at least delayed the certification of the election, as was their goal.
It strains credulity to think that a bunch of white supremacists and shamans knew precisely where to go and what to look for on their own. At the very least, a thorough criminal investigation of events would seek to uncover where these people got their information. It would look into claims that tours were given beforehand to eventual insurrectionists. Congress can piece together events, but the DOJ and the FBI are not supposed to wait until the political branches get it together before investigating and prosecuting people for crimes.

At some point in the near future, the American people and the world will likely learn the full details of the Trump regime's coup plot — or at least, as full an accounting as we will ever get. But what if the American people simply don't care? What if the overall public response is indifference and a feeling of futility, driven by the perceived "need to move on" or the feeling that "nothing matters anyway."

That will leave the door open for the next fascist coup attempt and serve as an act of surrender in advance — which was very likely the plan from the beginning.

How Fox News is prepping its audience for fascism

Since well before Donald Trump's election, Fox News has served as one of his movement's most powerful and effective propaganda outlets. In numerous ways both large and small, Fox News has mainstreamed fascist and authoritarian talking points, circulated Trump's thousands of lies and massaged, minimized or falsified the events of Jan. 6 and the ongoing coup against American democracy.

On a near-daily basis, Tucker Carlson and other Fox News hosts amplify white supremacist lies about the "Great Replacement" — even if they don't use that precise term — claiming that white people are the victims of a genocidal plot to "replace" them with nonwhites. New public opinion research shows that this type of white supremacist stochastic terrorism has been internalized by tens of millions of white Americans — specifically white Republican and Trump voters — to such an extreme that many of them are willing to condone or participate in acts of political violence in to overthrow Joe Biden's presidency and American democracy.

More than 700,000 people have died in the United States from the coronavirus pandemic -- and this is a low estimate. More than a million Americans are expected to die before the virus is brought fully under control.

Public health experts have documented the direct role that Fox News and other right-wing media have played in encouraging their audience to not be vaccinated against the coronavirus. This is part of a much larger pattern of behavior, in which Fox News has consistently fueled and amplified coronavirus denialism. In total, Fox "News" has been a public health threat, and bears both direct and indirect responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Because Fox News has such pernicious influence control over its public that it has caused discord, chaos and other forms of dysfunction — almost certainly including interpersonal violence — within families, among friends and across entire communities. When and if American democracy finally succumbs to authoritarianism, its obituary should include Fox News for helping to kill it.

For almost a decade, Jen Senko has been documenting the personal impact of Fox News on the American people. In her 2015 documentary "The Brainwashing of My Dad," she showed in painstaking detail, how Fox News and the right-wing propaganda machine transformed her father into an angry, paranoid, bigoted, political extremist. Her father is only one of the millions of Americans who have fallen under the spell of Fox News and the right-wing hate machine — and by doing so became the base of support for Republican fascist movement.

In her new book, also called "The Brainwashing of My Dad," Senko continues to explore the damaging influence of Fox News and the larger right-wing echo chamber in America's worsening democracy crisis.

In this conversation, Senko details how Fox News functions like a type of cult that uses anger and fear to seduce and control its audience. She also explains how right-wing media creates an alternate universe that offers meaning, community and friendship for the confused, alienated and lonely people — predominantly older white men — who are its primary audience. Senko shares more personal anecdotes about how Fox News and its allied media have destroyed loving relationships,. She also warns that Fox News is priming its audience for political violence to support Donald Trump and the Republican-fascist ongoing coup attempt.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

With your documentary, you tried to warn the American people that Fox News and the right-wing media are an extreme danger to the country. But here we are several years later, with America's democracy crisis continuing to escalate as the right has increasingly embraced fascism. How do you feel watching this disaster?

Right now, I'm very, very frustrated. When I made the documentary, I was naïve. I thought to myself, "I'm going to save the world. I'm going to save America." It was cathartic for me to make "The Brainwashing of My Dad."

Now the American people are like the frog in the boiling water. It was lukewarm at first, nice and comfy, and they were all just splashing around a little bit. Then the water gets hotter, and they don't notice. By the time they notice, it's too late and they're boiling.

Given all that has happened and is happening with Trump and the Republicans, my feelings are now panic and despair. I always still have a seed of hope. There are many more people now who did get the message that I was trying to explain about Fox News and where the country was headed. I also have hope because it seems that more Americans are organized to resist.

What do people outside Trump World and the MAGAverse — or who are just generally in denial about the existential threat the country is facing — not understand about what's happening?

Too many people still do not seem to get that what the Republicans and Trump are doing to undermine democracy was long in the planning. It is all like an octopus and it has many tentacles. The head of the octopus is the media.

As fast as perhaps the FBI can catch those who are working to betray the country and commit treason, Fox News is everywhere. There truly is a vast right-wing conspiracy, as Hillary Clinton described it back in the 1990s. This is true whether you like it or not.

Basically, a bunch of oligarchs, evangelicals, racists, mega-corporations and right-wing libertarians got together and planned how they could get rid of government and any policies that serve the public good. What they want is no public schools, no libraries, no post office, no Social Security, no public health option. These right-wing forces want privatization across the board so that they can make as much money as they want, unrestrained, and won't have to pay taxes. Then these same forces got control of the media, and could inject their message right into the public's collective mind.

This right-wing movement also did other things too, such as running for school boards and in other local elections. They used gerrymandering and created a panic about nonexistent voter fraud. But it is the right-wing media that drives the campaign. What shocks me the most is that most Americans still do not understand the big picture.

In your documentary, you showed in painful detail how Fox News and the right-wing machine literally changed your father's personality into a person you no longer recognized. Other Americans have experienced this — perhaps millions of them. What is your dad an example of? How do we understand what Fox News and the right-wing echo chamber did to him as representative of a much larger phenomenon?

My father was seduced by the anger and the excitement. People know that something's wrong, that the system is rigged somehow, but they don't give much thought to how. My father was also retiring from his job, and he found the right-wing media. This gave him something to occupy his mind and thoughts.

Now, suddenly, there's all this excitement in his life. There is some right-wing media person telling him that the government is in his personal business too much. There are very persuasive big personalities pushing my father's buttons and those of the audience in general. And you know what? That feels good. There is an addictive quality to anger like that. It was exciting for my father. It also provided him a group to belong to.

I believe that a lot of white men feel like, "Well, what am I supposed to do? And who am I?" They needed help in figuring themselves out, and the right-wing media and that world provided it. Too many such men developed a victim mentality, telling themselves, "I'm a victim, I'm mad, I've always wanted to fight back."

How was Fox News and the right-wing media machine able to take people such as your father and get them to a point where they would support a coup or political terrorism or conspiracy theories like QAnon? Were they always prone to such behavior or did Fox News and the right-wing machine make them that way?

On Twitter, a lot people will say to me, usually Democrats or liberals, "Oh, these people, they were always like that. They're just finding a port to park their boat in now." I do not believe that is necessarily true.

My dad hadn't been racist. He hadn't been anti-"illegal immigrant." After listening to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, he got brainwashed. When I made the documentary, I did not know if I believed in brainwashing. Now I know that brainwashing does exist, it is real.

There's the brainwashing that happens through force, what we were all familiar with from movies. But what Fox News and the larger right-wing are doing is brainwashing by stealth. I believe this to be more insidious. There's only one type of information going into the brain. There's isolation. There is repetition. That is how they brainwash their public.

I feel like there has been a massive brainwashing campaign, something unlike anything we've ever seen before in this country. That's what's happened in America through Fox News and the right-wing media and movement.

Through your website and other outreach, many people have contacted you about how Fox News and the right-wing media machine have impacted their relationships. What are some of the common themes you are seeing?

One of them is anger. The relative, the loved one, the friend, whoever it may be, suddenly is angry more and more, it's their predominant mood. These people also become very argumentative. Many of these people who are watching Fox and are part of the right-wing echo chamber are incapable of having conversations that somehow do not turn to politics. They become obsessed with this new right-wing way of thinking. It becomes the person's mission. It is all of who they are.

What are some personal stories that jump out at you?

A woman recently shared with me how her husband was a good, sweet guy and a really quiet person. Right before Trump ran for office and became president, he started watching Fox News and his personality completely changed. He would yell at her and their child more. He would criticize her, his wife, because she was a Democrat, yell at her, yell at her kid, start criticizing her. The husband was becoming emotionally abusive.

The woman who reached out to me was afraid that it was going to traumatize her child and that she might have to leave her husband. She was really sad about it because she had once been very much in love with him.

Another person who contacted me lost several members of her family to COVID. Her father still wouldn't get the vaccine. He got COVID, and still wouldn't get the vaccine — or said he wouldn't — and he died because Tucker Carlson and other people on Fox News were telling people like him not to get vaccinated.

What is going on, emotionally and cognitively, where someone would listen to a person on TV who is telling them to do things that will cause them personal harm, that will hurt their family members, friends and other people they care about?

They're not thinking rationally. The part of their brain called the amygdala has been hijacked. That is the fight-or-flight part of the brain. When it is activated, the cerebral cortex is not functioning 100 percent. These people are responding from panic. In that moment, they go to the source that they have learned to trust. That source, in this case Fox News, is telling them, "You can only trust us." That source is angry all the time. It tells its public that the government has screwed them over and the politicians that have screwed them over. The response to Fox News and the right-wing machine actually becomes something physiological.

How does Fox News make friends with its viewers? Because what Fox News and other right-wing propaganda outlets are doing on a fundamental level is establishing an intimate relationship with their public.

There is a feeling that there is an in-group and an out-group. Fox and other parts of the right-wing media make their audience feel special, like they are in on something special. It is a very seductive feeling. Being part of a tribe makes people feel safer. That dynamic is also an example of groupthink.

Many Fox viewers and people who consume that right-wing media just want to belong to the group, to think the same way as everyone else in the group. You trust your people. You don't want to doubt them. They are your friends.

Are the people who watch Fox News awake, or are they asleep?

I think they're in a trance. They are definitely not awake. They're almost on autopilot. They are going to accept anything they are told by Fox.

Why would anyone listen to Fox News, or the right-wing echo chamber more generally, telling them to hurt people, to engage in violence? Why would a formerly reasonable person listen to these commands? What has gone wrong with them?

Because they are in such a rage. They are primed to take that next step. They're in such a rage because they believe, in their heart of hearts, that the 2020 election was stolen away from Trump. They really believe that their country is being taken over illegitimately.

Mix that in with the rage that they already have, where for example they truly believe, "Democrats are horrible, they're the devil's spawn. Anything that's wrong in my life is because of them. Now they're stealing the election, they stole my guy who speaks to me, who's like me." They're just ready to fight.

Democrats must embrace the power they have to save democracy — or risk losing both

There is no point in having political power if you don't use it. This is one of the first lessons of realpolitik.

Donald Trump is a political gangster who has learned this lesson well.

Under his command, the Republican Party is a de facto political crime family. They too understand power and how to use it.

Some time ago, Democrats understood this lesson as well. Now they appear to have unlearned it, at least as it applies to resisting the rise of the Republicans' neofascist movement. To be fair, Democratic leaders have maintained a keen understanding of power when it comes to suppressing progressives and others who are not beholden to corporate power.

To watch the Democrats be consistently outmaneuvered and defeated by the Republican-fascist movement is a pitiful thing to see. The Democratic Party's leaders can certainly do better; they choose not to.

Last week, Donald Trump executed a classic gangster move, strong-arming the Republican Party to remain fully loyal to him — even if that might cause them to lose the 2022 and 2024 elections.

Last Wednesday, Trump sent a fundraising email to his followers telling them: "If we don't solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in '22 or '24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do."

On Friday, the twice-impeached ex-president continued with his threats. This time he focused on Arizona, where a fake audit by his own followers once again confirmed his defeat in the 2020 presidential election. Entirely ignoring that result, Trump decreed that the Arizona vote should somehow be undone: "Either a new election should immediately take place or the past election should be decertified and the Republican candidate declared a winner …"

The mainstream news media, with its professional centrists, hope peddlers, stenographers and guardians of approved public discourse responded with a common theme: This was supposedly further proof that the Republican Party is in disarray, and even devouring itself. It was widely seen as "bad politics" for Republicans to follow Trump's edicts about the Big Lie, and likely to lead to internal chaos.

These conclusions are wildly incorrect. Like other fascist and authoritarian political movements, today's Republican Party is purging itself of dissenters and those others not fully committed to Donald Trump. This is not a sign of disorder or weakness. If anything, it's a sign that the Republicans are becoming even more ideologically cohesive — and their sole ideology is unquestioned loyalty to their leader.

Republican elected officials and others in Trump World clearly understand they must follow Trump's lead. Indeed, they effectively have no choice. Public opinion polls and other evidence has consistently shown that Republican voters and right-wing independents are dedicated to Donald Trump. Indeed, their devotion to Trump is greater than their loyalty to the Republican Party. This includes a large percentage of Republicans — tens of millions of Americans — who are willing to endorse or condone political violence in order to seize and hold power. A majority of Republicans in so-called red states even express willingness to secede from the Union, presumably to create a 21st-century version of the Confederacy.

According to recent polls, 80 percent of Republican voters want Trump to be the party's presidential nominee in 2024. Senate Republicans have noticed. This week they demonstrated their commitment to Trump's war on American democracy by killing the Freedom to Vote Act — a "compromise" bill that Democratic "moderates" believed might attract bipartisan support — before it could even be properly debated.

As a practical matter, this means that Trump and his Republican fascists intend to steal the 2022 midterms, and then the 2024 presidential elections, using the same tactics as they did in 2020 — but more effectively.

In response to this escalating crisis, today's Democratic Party — as has been true for several decades — does not appear to grasp the power and importance of clear and consistent messaging that mobilizes its voters and demobilizes the opposition.

Democratic leaders and other messengers do not consistently use moral appeals, emotional language and calls to action in order to motivate their base and potential voters.

As documented by legal scholar Ian Haney López and others, the Democrats do not consistently use a narrative frame that effectively combines messaging about both race and class inequality, and how they overlap and reinforce one another. Democrats lack a simple, straightforward narrative — a big story to tell voters about what their party represents.

By comparison, the Republicans have a far more effective propaganda machine. They have branded themselves as "patriots" who love America and are "defending" it against those others — sometimes specifically named and identified, and sometimes not — who are not "real" Americans and are said to hate the country and its so-called traditions.

Because the Republicans and larger fascist movement have a brand that is clearly tied to whiteness, racial resentment, anti-intellectualism, misogyny, patriarchy, guns, Christian nationalism and other meaningful social identities, the specifics of their policies barely matter.

In fact, Democratic policies across a range of issues, from the economy to health care to defending democracy itself, are far more popular than those offered by the Republicans.

The Democratic Party's messaging failures about President Biden's Build Back Better plan — whose individual elements are remarkably popular, and not exclusively among Democrats or liberals — offer the most recent and glaring example.

Veteran White House correspondent Brian Karem recently offered these insights in his weekly column for Salon, writing that the Biden "honeymoon is indeed over":

Press pundits and analysts are all talking about how badly Biden is doing. This is in large part because he doesn't connect with people — because the White House staff doesn't let him. His communications team strictly limits his appearances, and therefore the administration comes off as arrogant, elitist and controlling. The photo I tweeted and the responses to it show, without a doubt, that a lot of people want to respond to Joe Biden favorably.
A wrangler told me they don't want me near the president. I responded that he always answers my questions when I am — and was told that's exactly why they don't want me there. The staff is afraid of what some of us will ask him, and what his responses will be. One byproduct of this that's invisible from the outside is that by making the press pool and a few others feel special by their proximity and access, the Biden administration has been far more successful in stifling free speech than Trump ever was with his bullying….

In a recent conversation with historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, political scientist Brian Klaas discussed the Democrats' messaging failures relative to America's democracy crisis and the global fascist tide, saying he was "encouraged" to hear Rep. Adam Schiff say that Republicans had "basically built an autocratic culture around a single individual":

That was one of the first times that I've seen it stated so clearly by someone so senior. I think the problem is that a traditional strength of American democracy was this idea of the Senate as elder statesmen of the country. They were all friends. That had its problems, but they smoked together across party lines.
And I think a lot of the people who were socialized politically in that world don't realize that the people they extend the olive branch to now have become authoritarian. Holding out an olive branch to someone who disagrees with you about tax policy is fundamentally different than doing so to someone who wants to burn down the system of government and install authoritarianism. I think people just haven't made that shift yet.
This is a different level of battle than every other battle that exists. Because if you lose the battle for democracy, you don't get to have another battle for taxes, infrastructure, healthcare, or any of the policies that change lives. In places I've studied where democracy has died, it's still dead pretty much everywhere. And if it's resurrected it is a kind of cookie cutout of democracy with rigged elections and deeply flawed institutions and so on.
I think the window is closing to fix this. If we don't fix it in the next two to four years, I don't think it's going to get fixed. The problem with that message is that it's not uplifting. One of the corollaries between authoritarian politics debates and climate change is that you're trying to galvanize people to preserve the status quo. You're saying, if you work really, really hard, you can have what you've always had. From a political messaging point of view, that's difficult. You're saying that we'll go back to having the same old political divides we used to have. Our system will be just as broken. And that's the really big rub the Democrats are grappling with.

Perhaps most critical of all, today's Democratic Party is not effectively using its power to protect democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law. Indeed, it appears afraid to do so. There are many examples.

The Democratic leadership, especially President Biden, has not used its full power to compel "centrists" like Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to support the popular and necessary legislation in Biden's Build Back Better package or the even more critical voting-rights legislation.

Perhaps the leadership fears that Sinema and Manchin will be pushed farther toward the Republicans. But in reality they are already de facto Republicans who are holding the Biden administration, the Democratic Party and the American people hostage.

Biden and the Democratic leadership can use their power to force through many key initiatives, either by bypassing Congress or by dumping the Senate filibuster.

They could also use their power to ensure that Donald Trump, his confederates and other agents and allies are prosecuted to the full extent of the law for their role in the insurrection and attempted coup on and around Jan. 6.

At the moment, Attorney General Merrick Garland appears to be protecting Trump and his allies from prosecution for their many and obvious crimes against democracy. As president of the United States and chief law enforcement officer, Biden could set the tone and insist on bringing Donald Trump and the other Jan. 6 criminals to justice.

Pro-democracy Americans and other real patriots must use their power while they still have it.

They must publicly pressure Biden and the Democrats to do what is necessary to defend American democracy. They must be willing to engage in massive acts of collective action to protect their democracy and society. There is power and strength in numbers. Democratic voters and other pro-democracy Americans outnumber the Republicans and their neofascist foot soldiers and must use that leverage to maximum advantage.

At every event where Republican fascists and other right-wing operatives gather and attempt to influence public policy — such as at school board meetings — pro-democracy Americans and other real patriots should stage counter-protests and exert as much pressure as possible. There is strength in visibility.

Biden and the Democrats appear to be treating political power as something to be saved and conserved for the future, but in reality their power is finite and time-dependent. If and when the Republicans take control of the House in 2022, and perhaps the presidency in 2024, the power that the Democrats believed they were hoarding will be worthless.

Power not used ultimately becomes power wasted, and this is even more true in a moment of dire crisis. If American democracy is to be saved, the Democrats must embrace their power — and use it.

'Trump World' is no joke — and it wants to devour American democracy

"Trump World" is not a joke, if it ever really was. That's no longer the term exclusively applied to Donald Trump's orbit by media observers or political opponents. It's now how Trump World describes itself.

When longtime Trump loyalist Corey Lewandowski lost his job leading the pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Action, after facing accusations of sexual misconduct, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich tweeted that Lewandowski "will no longer be associated with Trump World." (He was replaced by former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is very much still associated with Trump World.)

Yes, it may be amusing to hear Donald Trump's agents and apparatchiks referring to the Great Leader's inner circle with a term formerly used by detractors. But only if you still believe that liberal schadenfreude and mockery offer an effective defense against the rise of neofascism.

Yes, Trump World has interesting and bizarre characters: a mattress salesman, a former mayor of America's largest city who has hair-dye issues, a Nosferatu-like white supremacist, a drunken would-be Renaissance man and various other hucksters, henchmen and rejects from the Republican Party's "land of broken toys" who are now Trump's agents of chaos and perfidy.

Yes, Donald Trump himself only seems to exist as a simulacrum, a TV or film character come to life, who exemplifies the worst aspects of the human condition. That is not a bug but a feature: As a man and a figurehead, Donald Trump is irresistible to his cult members precisely because of those attributes.

In essence, Donald Trump the man is identical to "Donald Trump" the character, who is so ridiculous that he could not possibly exist. Yet he does.

Some have even speculated that there is no Donald Trump — it's really the late legendary comedian Andy Kaufman, playing Tony Clifton, who in turn is playing "Donald Trump". We may never know the answer.

But one should not forget that fascists, authoritarians and autocrats more generally can often be funny, both in terms of style and personality. Such individuals and their followers are often mocked by "serious" leaders and intellectuals, as well as by the larger political class and other respectable types. That mockery and humor all too often turns into existential terror, recrimination, pleas for mercy and other desperate apologies.

In fact, a certain leader universally viewed as one of the greatest villains in human history, who brought the world to the brink of disaster, was frequently described by the American and European news media and other observers as a ridiculous buffoon who posed no real threat.

In the famous description by biographer Joachim Fest, said world leader "always appeared foolish to sage political minds, and for years — indeed, virtually to the moment of his final victory — arrogant conventional wisdom did not take him seriously. The widespread mockery heaped upon him has been justified by his appearance, his unhinged rhetorical flights and the theatrical atmosphere he deliberately created around himself. Yet in a manner almost impossible to describe, he has always stood above or outside his banal and dull-witted persona." Does any of that sound familiar?

Ultimately, Donald Trump and his movement — in other words, Trump World — offer a lesson and warning that they and people like them are capable of anything in their war on American democracy and society.

To wit: Politico recently reported on Trump's obsession with "challenging and changing election laws," which he hopes to convert into "legislative action" if he ever regains the presidency:

Trump is expected to mount another bid for president in 2024. And as talk of such a campaign has grown more concrete, so too has speculation over what type of agenda he'd actually pursue.
Some answers can be found in the work being done by America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank stacked with former Trump administration officials. Among the group's 20 main policy priorities, which include trade, immigration and education, is promoting more comprehensive voter restrictions in the name of election integrity. Officials describe it as a priority.
"One hundred percent yes," AFPI President and former Trump White House Domestic Policy Council Director Brooke Rollins said of having legislation on a set of issues ready to go should Trump prevail in a 2024 election. "If we do our job right we will have a package of model legislation for the federal government and the state governments where they align."

Joe Biden may be president, but Republican fascists and their movement are still in the ascendant. Trump World's war on democracy and the ongoing coup continue. What will America be like if Trump World emerges victorious?

Trump World is a fascist and authoritarian cult oriented around pathological, antisocial and anti-human behavior. Its leader is to be worshipped as a civil-religious prophet, savior and living God.

Trump World is also a type of "life world" that provides meaning through narratives, values, identity and an entire culture, at least for its true believers.

There is no objective empirical truth or reality in Trump World. Such concepts are bent and twisted to serve the agenda of the Great Leader and his or her fantasies, edicts and desires. Trump World is a closed episteme, whose logic is self-sustaining and self-justifying.

Trump World is a type of "democracy" — albeit a fake democracy where only the votes of "real Americans" count. The leaders and ruling party of Trump World reserve the right to reject any votes they deemed "fraudulent" and to control the results of elections such that the "correct" decision is reached.

Likewise, the Trump World regime also controls the courts and legal system. If "erroneous" legal decisions are made, the leaders and ruling party reserve the right to "correct" them.

Trump World is an apartheid society, a Christian nationalist theocracy and a plutocratic oligarchy. It worships death, violence and sacrifice for "the cause." Martyrs are to be revered, celebrated and thus given eternal life. Trump World is sadomasochistic.

Only right-wing political correctness is allowed in Trump World. Thoughtcrimes are to be immediately punished because they are "divisive" and undermine "unity" and "patriotism." Silence is deemed to be consent and agreement.

Trump World is terrified of genuine human freedom. As such, women's reproductive rights and freedoms are to be extinguished. The civil rights of nonwhites and other marginalized individuals and groups will not be protected. The natural environment is to be exploited by rapacious capitalism. Labor unions and other attempts by working people to fight for decent wages and better living conditions will be illegal.

Trump World is a realm of "white freedom," which in practice means the ability of white people — especially rich white men and "Christians" — to impose their will without restraint on other human beings deemed to be inferior.

In a recent conversation with Salon, historian Timothy Snyder described what such "freedom" actually looks like in practice: "The other side's idea of freedom is so impoverished that it does not exist anymore: it is a cliché with no real content. Freedom for them just means being rolled by the waves. Freedom for them just means their impulses or whatever they're feeling right now in the moment."

Trump World will come very close to devouring American society if Trump and the Republican Party (and the larger American fascist movement) "win" the 2022 midterms and then the 2024 presidential election.

In his newsletter, journalist Judd Legum recently explained how close America is to such a nightmarish outcome:

In 2020, Trump's strategy to overturn the election relied on Rudy Giuliani and a ragtag group of conspiracy theorists. It didn't work out. In Iowa, Trump made clear that his strategy in 2024 is to install unwavering Trump loyalists throughout the state and federal government. "The election was a fraud and if we want to save our country and make America great again, we have only one choice. We must elect strong and unyielding American Republicans at every level," Trump said.
This would facilitate a much more sophisticated effort to seize power in the next presidential election, regardless of the actual vote total….
Part 1: Put Trump loyalists in charge of election administration in key states...
Part 2: Elect Trump loyalists as governor in key states...
Part 3: Put Trump loyalists in charge of Congress
The third part of the plan is more straightforward: restore the Republican majorities in Congress. On January 6, 2021, about two-thirds of the Republican caucus objected to the certification of the Electoral College in an effort to reverse the outcome of the election. Some of the Republicans who did not object to the certification are retiring or facing primary challengers. A majority might be all that's needed to rubber-stamp efforts in the states to swing the election to Trump.

In a recent essay, Thom Hartmann offers this warning from history about America's crisis of democracy and how close we are to Trump World's final victory:

In addition to amplifying the usual barriers to voters in mostly Democratic neighborhoods (long lines, harsh ID requirements, short hours, limiting mail-in voting, etc.), Republicans are now putting open advocates for a Trump Oligarchy into positions to determine which votes to count and which to reject.
Trump and the Republicans going along with him (which is almost all of them now) are playing an old game. Instead of voters selecting their politicians, these Republican politicians are selecting their voters.
Boris Bazhanov was Joseph Stalin's personal secretary from 1923 to 1928, and later served as secretary of the Soviet Political Bureau. In his memoirs published in 1980, he recounts something Stalin told him about voting.
"I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how," Stalin said. "But what is extremely important is this — who will count the votes, and how." ...
And now Republicans are setting things up so when they flip elections, à la Stalin, it'll just seem like a normal part of politics. They tried it last year and it failed by a whisker, so now they're setting things up to pull it off in 2024.

Trump World is not an alternate reality or a different dimension of the multiverse. It is not a metaphor, a Jungian shadow or an archetype. It is not part of some thought experiment or counterfactual.

Trump World is the here and the now; it is not America's "undiscovered country."

The American people have two years, at most, to save themselves and their democracy. Tomorrow is not an option. Procrastination and denial will make matters worse. Only the "urgency of now" has the potential to save American democracy from Trump World. Do the American people, or those among them who still support democracy, have the energy, courage and strength to defeat Trump World? Or, have they already decided to surrender and assimilate into it?

Religion scholar explains how a specific strain of Christianity became a toxic political force

Since at least the 1980s, the conservative movement has increasingly been governed by faith, which can be described as a belief in things that cannot be proved by empirical means. In practice, this means that the Republican Party and the larger right-wing movement's policies and ideology across a range of issues — the economy, the environment, science, health care, democracy and the rule of law — have little if any basis in fact.

In the Age of Trump, movement conservatism has metastasized or devolved into its purest form: American fascism, a form of religious politics taken to its most illogical extreme. Facts, truth and even the conception of reality itself are being replaced with lies, fictions, and fantasies that serve the American fascist movement and its leader.

As public opinion polls and other research have repeatedly shown, white right-wing Christians, especially Protestant evangelicals, have pledged their loyalty to Donald Trump and his movement. Many view him as a literal prophet or savior: His evident immorality has been rationalized as somehow necessary to his prophetic role.

Violence is a key feature of the new American fascism, as dramatically illustrated on Jan. 6 but also at many other moments. Trumpists and other Republican fascists, many or most of whom identify as Christian, have widely embraced political violence, including outright terrorism, as a necessary measure to "protect" their "traditional way of life" against "radical socialist Democrats, Black and brown people, Muslims, LGBTQ people and pretty much all Americans who still believe in the constitutional separation of church and state and the rule of law.

Together, these forces exist in a state of collective narcissism and shared malignant reality. In that relationship, white right-wing Christianity is a nexus or type of glue.

To discuss this profoundly disturbing phenomenon, I recently spoke with Anthea Butler, professor of religious studies and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She has been a guest on MSNBC, CNN, PBS and the BBC, and her essays have been featured in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Religion News Service and MSNBC. Butler's new book is "White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America".

In this conversation, she discusses the phenomenon of "white Christianity" and its role in the Age of Trump and America's current crisis of democracy. She also explores the specific role this phenomenon played in the events of Jan. 6 and the ascendant fascist movement, and its crucial role in legitimating and normalizing the society-wide moral crisis catalyzed and empowered by the Age of Trump.

Toward the end of this conversation, Butler warns that too many white people have erroneously convinced themselves that racial privilege will protect them from escalating right-wing Christian terrorism and related political violence.

This conversation has been edited, as usual, for clarity and length.

Imagine that American democracy is a patient in the hospital. If you were a type of religious figure — a priest, an imam, a rabbi or the like — what counsel would you be offer that patient in this dire moment?

I will answer that question in the context of the Catholic tradition. In that faith tradition there is something called "extreme unction." This is when you are on your deathbed, and they come to you to give you a prayer. Before the changes of Vatican II, the priest also carried a little kit, which had what would be used for communion and other needs. If I were diagnosing democracy right now in America, it is in a state of extreme unction. American democracy is in its last moments and it is going to need a miracle to get up from that deathbed. I would whisper in that patient's ear right now that you had better decide to fight back or you are dead in the next 15 minutes. Your 15 minutes are about up.

What would penance look like?

Continuing with the Catholic tradition. Most of the time the penitence, in the old Catholic tradition, would involve beating oneself. Self-flagellation. There would be bloodletting. You would not want someone else to make the bloodletting happen for you.

In the case of American democracy, especially with the Democratic Party, they are holding on to some old, tired notion that they are still in power and that the things that they have counted on before will work for them in this moment of crisis. The Democrats are counting on Black folks standing in line for 20 hours to vote. They are counting on Black people to ignore the fact that the Democrats have not done much for them. The Democrats are counting on the good Black Christians to come and save them, once again, from themselves.

There are all these political leaders and others who claim to be Christians and say that America is supposedly a "Christian nation." But there is little talk of the many forms of evil both summoned and empowered by the Age of Trump. How is this being reconciled?

There are two primary reasons, as I see it. Half the time they do not believe that there is in fact a devil. Moreover, many of these Christians are the devils at work in this society. Two, if you don't believe in the devil, then you don't have to deal with anything that is evil.

Instead, you use language such as "people are misguided" or "they have the wrong idea" or "they didn't really mean to lie like that." Evangelicals of the 1950s, and even the '60s and early '70s, would have looked at Donald Trump and said that he was the Antichrist. Now evangelicals worship him. To be clear, I am not offering a position on whether not I believe that Trump is the Antichrist or whether he should be worshipped. I'm just telling you what is happening.

Donald Trump, his regime and the Republican fascist movement are objectively evil. How do white Christians explain away such behavior?

Because they're in a bubble. Their pastor is reinforcing these messages. The people they live around are reinforcing these messages. They listen to Fox News. Their other information sources reinforce the same message.

Let's be frank: I don't care how many times they carry a Bible. Half of them are not reading it anyway. One may think that these people are evangelical Christians and therefore they know scripture. Yes, some of them do. These evangelicals may know it very well. But even though these evangelicals say, "I'm living by scripture," the reality is that they are living by the scriptures that are written by their politicians and their pastors.

The Jan. 6 coup attempt and attack on the Capitol was an act of white right-wing Christian terrorism against multiracial democracy. Given the Christian iconography and behavior seen on Jan. 6 — that huge cross, the prayers, the horns, and other examples — why do mainstream news media and others refuse to state such obvious facts?

It's intentional. They cannot come to grips with the fact that the Christianity of America is just like any other fundamentalist religion that gets weaponized in order to hold on to power. Therefore, they have to continue to tell themselves that everything that happened on Jan. 6 was an aberration and not something religious in nature. Those people are not "Christians" like us.

But the reality is that those people are you. And not only are those people you, they sat with you in the pews. They prayed with you. And if they had succeeded on Jan. 6, you would be right there on their side. And you would say that God must have blessed them to be able to overthrow the United States government.

Can you explain more about the horns and specific prayers that were used on Jan. 6?

They had horns, what are known as the ram's horn or the shofar, which appeared in the Old Testament. Those horns were blown before the walls of Jericho came down. It was like a battle. Those horns were used in rituals in ancient Judaism. That horn is also used in Jewish rituals today to mark certain kinds of events, whether that's Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. The blowing of the horn means that we are going into battle — in this context, that God is going with us into the Capitol.

The kinds of prayers we saw on Jan. 6 at the Capitol are called "imprecatory prayers." There are the kinds of prayers used when you want your enemy to die. On Jan. 6 they believed that they were on a mission from God to go into the Capitol and get Nancy Pelosi, Mike Pence and other people they saw as enemies.

And that huge Christian cross?

They used that cross to be like the crusaders during the European Middle Ages.

Tate Reeves, the Republican governor of Mississippi, recently said that Christians are not afraid of the coronavirus because they believe in "eternal life." How did you process his assertion? The country is in the midst of a deadly plague, and right-wing leaders are summoning God and their faith to encourage people not to take proper health precautions.

Those words are a claim that "we" are not afraid of death because we Christians. It is a claim of certainty on going to heaven. It will all be fine, because if you die from the coronavirus then you are going to see Jesus. Well, what if Jesus is not there? What if there's no Jesus? What if you just drop straight down into the pit of hell?

I'm not saying that's what's going to happen, but the way in which the governor of Mississippi spoke about the pandemic was as though if you die, then it is all going to be all right. What kind of sense does that make?

As a matter of public policy, Christian nationalists, dominionists and other Christian fascists are trying to impose their End Times eschatological fantasies onto secular America in opposition to the Constitution and the separation of church and state. These are fantasies of death and destruction. These white right-wing Christians literally seem to be seeking out death.

They do in fact appear to be seeking out death. They have this huge desire to live the way they want to live without restraint. At some point it is death for you, but it is not death for them.

One of the dimensions here that many people do not understand is that when the pandemic started and many of these red-state and other right-wing leaders were telling people not to wear masks, they were kind of hoping that the "right people" would die. We know who the "right people" are.

Now, people in red states are dying and those Republican and other right-wing leaders can't get out of the spiral of telling people not to get vaccinated. They were hoping that all the people of color were going to die. But now in the red states, it's a lot of white folks dying. A lot of white children are going to die, and they still are doubling down on the same thing. It hasn't changed.

What is "White Christianity"?

White Christians tend to do very different things than Black Christians or Asian American Christians or Latino Christians in this country. You can be a Black Christian and believe in white evangelicalism. You can be Black and a Christian and be bought out and sold out to white evangelicalism or white Christianity because you accept the premises of what these white preachers are telling you, especially about how you're supposed to love America for example.

There are Black Christians, and others, who are not being discerning about what is Christianity, as opposed to what is better described as White American Christianity.

For some Christians, the question becomes, "Well, I'm a red-letter Christian," which basically refers to how the words of Jesus are red in the Bible. "I believe what Jesus says." My intervention there is: If that's the case, great. That means you have to be for the poor and all that comes with that.

White Christianity is a Christianity that is based on the following: Jesus is white. Jesus privileges white culture and white supremacy, and the political aspirations of whiteness over and against everything else. White Christianity assumes that everybody should be subsumed under whiteness in terms of culture and society.

White Christianity assumes that it does not have to look at poverty. We see this in the form of the so-called prosperity gospel, and that any blessing you get from God is because God favors you. If anybody else is out of favor, let's say some poor kid in Northwest Philadelphia who doesn't have enough to eat, well, that's just too bad because they're not blessed of God.

When suffering happens, it's blamed on anybody else but God.

As part of the right-wing culture war narrative there is a martial language that includes Christianity. There is talk of "Christian struggle" and "Christian war." What are the connections between such militant language and actual right-wing violence?

That language has a long history in this country. There's war imagery all through Biblical scripture. There are war songs that people sing in churches. This idea about battling for the Lord, whether we're talking about the Crusades or the Civil War or fighting communism and everything else, is embedded in our history. That language of war and fighting is being used to incite people now.

Most people in America do not want such violence to happen. The problem is that if you've got enough people who want such an outcome, who can make it hell for everybody else, and there are people in power who want to use the public to create decay and destruction, such violent language is going to be used to that end. Donald Trump knows how to push every one of these buttons.

How do you explain the role of white Christianity in the right-wing disruptions and threats of violence at local school board meetings about "critical race theory," vaccinations and other topics?

It is as though nobody remembers the 1950s, when white people were standing outside yelling and screaming and cussing Black children who were actually integrating these schools. These were Christians who were in churches, who were out there yelling and spitting and screaming. Women especially. Evangelicalism and harsh rhetoric have always been part and parcel of this.

We need to quit talking about evangelicalism as though it is some type of coddling religion and understand it for what it has been and what it is doing.

The language of "religious freedom" is central to the power of white Christianity in America. Other religions are rarely able to make such claims and have them accepted as normal or reasonable by the public, or especially by the Supreme Court and political leaders. In practice, the "freedom" of white Christianity is something unique in America. Muslims, for example, are rarely if ever afforded such protections and special rights.

The rhetoric of freedom is being used to elevate "freedom" for white Christians and to suppress freedom for everyone else. In order to remain on top, the freedom of everybody else is being suppressed. These types of white Christians want you to do what they want you to do. In turn, you will be controlled by them. Limiting women's reproductive freedoms is a way to keep everybody in check.

What is the role of white privilege in explaining why so many white Americans are able to deny the serious dangers embodied by white Christian fascist violence?

White privilege convinces many white people that they will not personally have to deal with the violence. They believe that, unlike other people, they will just be able to melt away into the background when the violence happens and nobody is going to shoot people who look like them.

White privilege has convinced them that nobody's going to take their home away from them. Nobody's going to kill their kids. Nobody's going to march them out as an example and shoot them. White privilege has convinced them that they can take some type of loyalty oath or pledge and they will be safe.

Timothy Snyder warned us fascism was coming — now he says we can survive it

One reason historians study the past is to better understand the present.

In his books, essays and public scholarship, historian Timothy Snyder has been conducting a master class on authoritarianism, neofascism, and the existential threat that Donald Trump and his movement represent to America's multiracial democracy. Snyder, a professor at Yale, is the author of the bestselling books "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century," "The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America" and "Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary." His new book is "On Tyranny Graphic Edition," an adaptation of his 2017 bestseller illustrated by Nora Krug.

In a series of conversations at Salon, Snyder has repeatedly warned and predicted how Donald Trump's regime, the Republican Party and their ascendant neofascist movement would threaten the foundations and future of American democracy. In May of 2017, he speculated on how quickly American democracy could begin to crumble in the face of this assault:

Nobody can be sure how long this particular regime change with Trump will take, but there is a clock, and the clock really is ticking. It's three years on the outside, but in more likelihood something like a year. In January 2018 we will probably have a pretty good idea which way this thing is going. It's going to depend more on us than on them in the meantime. Once you get past a certain threshold, it starts to depend more on them than on us, and then things are much, much worse. It makes me sad to think how Americans would behave at that point.

Several months later, Snyder said this about the precarious state of the rule of law under Trump:

I think the most predictable thing, because it does not have to do with legislation, was the moral effect that his presence would have.
This works three ways. It works by what Trump does and says. For example, the outrageous things he says about the press and his obsession with violence. It also works by the things he doesn't say and the things he doesn't condemn. "On the one hand and on the other hand" is a way to destroy values and virtues, because if the leader of the country does not have a firm opinion about good and evil then it becomes very hard for other people to have firm opinions about good and evil.
People who have opinions which are in fact absolutely evil are supported by this kind of relativism. With the attempted terrorist attacks, defacing the Holocaust Memorials, and defacing the Lincoln Memorial — which just happened, by the way — you are looking at the demoralization of a society.
The second big trend is that we are hanging by our teeth to the rule of law. That was my judgment at the beginning of his presidency and it is still my judgment now. The rule of law is what gives us a chance to rebuild the system after this is all done.

before the Capitol assault on Jan. 6 of this year:

Obviously, we are in a slow-motion Reichstag Fire right now. That is what is happening. Donald Trump is not as skilled as Hitler. He doesn't work as hard as Hitler. He doesn't have the same level of confidence as Hitler, but he's clearly looking for that Reichstag Fire emergency. Trump tried to make Black Lives Matter into that emergency. "Antifascists" and "thugs" and "law and order" and so on is part of that effort. Donald Trump keeps trying to make the Reichstag Fire work.
If Trump is not successful, then that is a credit to the people who are resisting. Donald Trump is not involved in a political campaign; it is emergency politics in the constant search of an emergency. Whether Trump and his allies can line up the emergency politics with the emergency, I do not know. But that is all that Trump and his allies have got on their side — and it is all they are going to have through to Election Day.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party, the so-called resistance and other pro-democracy forces for the most part did not listen to Snyder and other experts' warnings. Matters are even more dire now than they were on Jan. 6 when Trump and his followers attempted a coup. Democrats and pro-democracy forces are not acting with the urgency required to defeat the Republican-fascist movement, and continue to behave as though compromise and "bipartisanship" can somehow save American democracy and society.

In this new conversation, Snyder reflects on how and why America's democracy crisis is getting worse, the seductive power of normalization and denial, and how Trump and the Republican-fascist movement have tried to capture and debase the concept of "freedom."

Snyder also offers advice for how to resist the rising tide of fascism: Americans must create lighthouses of truth and democracy — which should include more local news media and other civil society institutions — that can help our fellow citizens become better informed and more responsible. Toward the end of this conversation, Snyder observes that America is in a moment of interregnum, a turning point in history where there are hopeful possibilities for the future, but also nightmarish potential outcomes as well.

This conversation has been edited, as usual, for clarity and length.

How are feeling now? How do you make sense of America's escalating democracy crisis? You predicted more or less what would happen with Trump's regime and the country's path to autocracy.

Normalization has no bottom. People can normalize just about anything. Many people who supported Trump back in 2016 would, back then, have pronounced themselves appalled by things that did in fact happen. But if you don't make an active break, you will go along, right down through a coup attempt.

On the other side, for people who oppose Trump, the temptation is to think that problems can be solved in one stroke. They tell themselves, "Maybe I was wrong. Maybe some things did happen that were bad, but surely now we've taken some kind of turn." Those who like Trump are still thinking about him all the time. And those who don't have sometimes lost their focus since he left the White House.

And that is what is particularly frightening: there are structural changes underway that are more important than Trump. What's most frightening about this moment is that unlike in 2016 — where there were America's historic problems plus one person, Donald Trump — now there are those historical problems plus a coordinated, multi-layered effort to sabotage future elections.

America is in danger of drowning under a fascist tide. Should the American people try to float right now? Or do they need to learn to swim?

I believe we need to build a lighthouse. The very term "fascism" is also a kind of lighthouse, because it's a concept. As soon as you say "fascism," putting aside the question of how applicable it is, you're saying this situation is something which has historical precedent. We have seen fascism all over the world. It is not a concept or situation that just emerged from nowhere. Ultimately, America needs more such lighthouses.

The lighthouse allows us to then say, "OK, there's a rising tide. But look, there are rising tides everywhere. And come to think of it, when I look at my lighthouse records, we've seen rising tides in the past and here's what they look like. Here's how people have navigated them." We also need to make the noise being caused by the rising tide into something comprehensible.

For example, the level of discourse is getting lower and lower on the side of those who support authoritarian politics. They are abandoning concepts in favor of noise and personal attacks. Some of those values are worth picking up. One of the most important values and concepts right now is freedom. The other side's idea of freedom is so impoverished that it does not exist anymore: it is a cliché with no real content. Freedom for them just means being rolled by the waves. Freedom for them just means their impulses or whatever they're feeling right now in the moment. On the left, people are shy of the word, but we need the word, and we need the value. We can't do without the value.

Donald Trump represents a certain type of freedom. When I think of Trump and freedom, I see a man who is now an idea. What Trump represents is much bigger than one person. Trump is permission for his followers to engage in a perverse and vile type of "freedom" that represents the worst sort of human behavior. I see permission for freedom without responsibility. I see permission for violence. I see permission for destruction.

I always try to give credit where it's due. Donald Trump is a very talented entertainer. Entertainment is a form of education. He's setting an example, because he's simultaneously an entertainer whose life seems to suggest that you can behave like him and then rise all the way to the top. It can all be shtick all the way down, nothing beyond the shtick.

But Trump's behavior and life are not a useful lesson for people. Even if his behavior was not unethical and authoritarian, it's also just not good life advice for most people to follow. Most people are not going to have Trump's talent. They are also not going to have a fabulously wealthy father to save them from their bad choices. And just mathematically speaking, you can't have a society where everyone survives by conning everyone else.

What is the importance of corporeal politics as a form of resistance during this moment of crisis?

In my writing I have defined corporeal politics in a narrow way. This involves getting off the internet and doing something in the three-dimensional world. Make sure you take action with people who agree with you on some things but not on everything. Make sure that some of this action takes place outside. Make sure that you spend some time in places you hadn't known with people you hadn't known. A lot of this is about mood, about feeling better, about feeling more free.

I was also defining corporeal politics in terms of the mood change that you experience when you protest for something, or when you march for something.

We feel like we are on the defensive all the time — because we in fact are. But when we take action with other people around, we not only feel better, we start to see the problems in different ways, more imaginatively. I am also really concerned about how freedom, as being enacted by and through our bodies, is being taken away.

I am not just thinking about women's reproductive rights but also in the sense that when we are separated from one another by the internet or by the coronavirus or whatever it might be, it is harder for us to recognize one another as fellow citizens or fellow human beings. As a result, it is easier to fall into these traps caused by extreme political and other forms of polarization.

To my eyes, Joe Biden, the other leaders of the Democratic Party and too many other political and social elites are not acting with the "urgency of now." They are literally saying that America is experiencing the greatest political crisis since the years before the Civil War — but where is the urgent action? What can history teach us here?

One of the things we can learn from history is that if a leader has a large parliamentary majority, like FDR did, then they can pass many more laws. If the Democrats had more votes in the Senate, very important legislation having to do with protecting elections and democracy would have already passed.

The elections are close to being a meta-issue here. The American people are much better than their electoral system. Our electoral system makes real policy very difficult.

Where I see Biden and the Democrats failing is that they are not using enough positive language about the future. In terms of fighting the rising tide you alluded to earlier, positive language about how America could be much better is essential.

The culture war is a way of keeping everyone stuck in the present, or in the past. The voter suppression and the memory laws and the obsession with "critical race theory" is, among other things, about fomenting culture war in time for 2022. You can't win a culture war without a vision of a much better future. If the Democrats or other pro-democracy forces are trying to defend against the right wing and its culture-war tactics, then they are going to lose without such a vision.

One of the other problems I see with the Democrats and other pro-democracy forces also has to do with information and knowledge. We are in the middle of the largest Facebook scandal yet. All well and good. But how do we turn that around? The companies should be broken up. That is what antitrust is for. The algorithms should be opened up. You should be able to see your car's engine and you should be able to see your kid's school's curriculum. You should also be able to see the software that is designed to run your emotions.

The profits that social media make from polarizing us and making us stupid should be turned towards a project to recreate local news in United States. We need local news, news about people's lives, to provide a cushion between everyday life and the global.

We can do all the corporeal politics we want; we can get everything else right. But if people have no idea what's actually happening in their daily lives, then their politics immediately jumps to the national or the international or the conspiratorial, and perhaps even the entirely fictional. That is where we are in America right now.

We've just raised a whole generation of Americans who lack local newspapers. Most of America is now a news desert. You cannot deny people factuality and then blame them for how they act and vote. We need to resuscitate factuality, as a value but also as part of daily life.

Texas has now empowered vigilantes to prevent women from exercising their reproductive rights. These plans are going to be copied nationwide in GOP-controlled areas. What is the role of legal vigilantism, and the rule of law more generally, in a failing democracy?

For me this is not so much vigilantism, although it is that, as a kind of planned anarchy. Rather than the state taking responsibility for the law, the state is marking out a policy line and inviting citizens to enforce it. This is how one party-states operate. It is characteristic of both fascist and communist regimes. The law exists, but power is not defined by the law. Instead, the party courts a certain kind of chaos. The leader sends a signal, and then sees how people respond. The result is that people take part in their own oppression.

If you oppress someone else because you believe the state has given you license to do so, you are saying that you too can be oppressed by another private citizen.

I receive many emails from people asking me about leaving the country because of Trump and his movement and everything that is happening. They are concerned about what to do, and when it might be too late to make that decision. What would you tell them?

I would tell them to have a valid passport and an actual plan. If you have a plan, then you can think sensibly about the moment. Beyond that answer I would have to know them personally.

Where are we in the story of America's democracy crisis? Are we in the beginning of the story, the middle or something else? Finally, can this all be turned off or is the road ahead a function of path dependency?

History tells us that there are always more roads, for good or ill, than we can see at a given moment. We are close to a kind of managed democracy, brought either by "legal" changes at the state level, a dramatic repeated coup attempt in 2025 or likely a mixture of both. The scenario is right out there in the open, it is underway. But it is far from inevitable.

Defense is now played at a higher level than in 2016. There is more awareness of the need for structural changes. But above all, we need a sense of the future which is something better than an averted disaster. Without visions of a better future, it is hard to shake the sense that there is some kind of path dependency. Personally, I think there are much brighter versions of the future out there, alongside the much darker ones.

Black flag: Understanding the Trumpists' latest threatening symbol

It's an old truism that the "real bad men" (and bad women) "move in silence and violence." That's certainly true for the most dangerous and most effective of Donald Trump's allies, henchmen, henchwomen, and other followers. But for Donald Trump himself, and most of his political cult, that rule does not apply.

Trump and his followers were loud, exuberant and enthusiastic on Jan. 6. The lethal attack on the Capitol had been publicly announced weeks in advance, and should have come as no surprise. Trump's rallies and gatherings continue to celebrate violence and the prospect of revenge — and specifically of "getting even" with Trump's "enemies."

Steve Bannon, Trump's former campaign chairman and White House strategist, has now threatened to recruit Republican-fascist "shock troops" with the apparent goal of undermining the U.S. government, and by implication multiracial democracy, if and when Trump and the Republicans regain control of both Congress and the White House.

On a daily basis Fox News and other elements of the right-wing disinformation propaganda machine use stochastic terrorism and other techniques to radicalize their audience into committing acts of political violence. To this point, the Democratic Party and the political and news media class in general have remained in denial, and largely passive in response.

In one troubling new development, Trump supporters have begun flying all-black American flags, in an implicit threat to harm or kill their opponents — meaning nonwhite people, "socialist liberals," Muslims, vaccinated people and others deemed to be "enemies" of "real America." As media critic Eric Boehlert recently noted, the liberal opinion site Living Blue in Texas is sounding the alarm about the specific meaning of the black flag and the Republican-fascists support for terrorism and other political violence. That post, "Are Your Republican Neighbors Planning on Killing You?", merits lengthy quotation:

It didn't take long to find hundreds of videos where these Trumpers and so-called patriots were hanging black American flags. ...

Black American flags are the flags that mean "no quarter shall be given." They are the opposite of the white flag of surrender.

According to the people on TikTok and the Sun (British tabloid), the black American flag originated in the civil war and was flown by the Confederates.

It means that they will not surrender, will not take prisoners, and are willing to die for their cause. It means they will execute their enemies.

Who are their enemies? Pretty much any non-Conservative. You know, Democrats, Liberals, LGBTQ, BIPOC, and the vaccinated. ...

So, we're the enemy, and they're openly professing to want to execute us. … So, why are they doing this
Covid vaccinations, mostly. They believe that Joe Biden has declared a civil war on them by mandating that employers with over 100 employees and the military have vaccinations.

Yes, they say civil war, and they say it's already started. But, unfortunately, many of them also live in states where masks and vaccines are required by state governments, healthcare, and law enforcement.

An alarming number of military members have been making Tik Toks talking about how they are being discharged because they refuse the vaccine. It's alarming because there is probably an equal number of guys on there talking about the civil war plans and actively using Tik Tok to recruit these military and ex-military members.

The biggest message they have been sending out is, "it's time" or "the time is now." ...

Although showing guns on Tik Tok is supposed to be against community guidelines, they show lots of videos of their guns, shooting them, wearing them, or sitting on their bed.

They primarily use Tik Tok as a recruiting tool and let others know their willingness to commit violence. Then they tell people to message them or where to find them on Telegram.

However you interpret these videos posted by Trump followers and other neofascists — which could be mainly performative — it is clearly true that the American right is increasingly willing to accept or condone violence as a means of expanding and protecting their social and political power. (Salon did not find licensed news photographs of these flags, and has made the editorial decision not to reproduce the images mentioned above, which are easy to find on social media.)

Public opinion polls and other research have repeatedly shown that millions of Republican voters and Trump followers would support the use of violence to remove Joe Biden from office because of the "Big Lie" and their belief that that he is not a legitimate president. Similarly, a large proportion of Republicans believe that the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 were "patriots" whose use of violence was justified.

And a new poll from the University of Virginia's Center for Politics even suggests that more than 50 percent of Trump supporters want "red states" to secede from the Union. Republican elected officials and other right-wing opinion leaders have continued to escalate their threats of political violence against Democrats and other targeted groups.

In a recent speech to the North Carolina Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Salt & Light" conference, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., issued what sounded like a declaration of war:

It is time for the American Christian church to come out of the shadows to say, "No longer are we going to allow our culture to be determined by people who hate the things that we believe in…. We are going to stand valiantly for God's incredible inherent truths that predate any version of government. Because, my friends, if we lose this country today, if we bend the knee to the Democrats today, our country will be lost forever, our children will never know what freedom is. It's our duty to stand up, Let us stand united as men and women of faith to fight for our country.

During an interview with MSNBC's Joy Reid, terrorism and national security expert Malcolm Nance said that Cawthorn's video "picks up on the themes that are not just coming from the Steve Bannon level and Donald Trump level, they are coming from the Republican street — and that Republican street is armed. They're angry. They have been fed an entire line which makes them believe that America is no longer America and that they no longer want the America that the rest of us, the 60 percent of the country, live in. And they`re willing to take up arms for it."

Nance also noted that Cawthorn's propaganda video is thematically similar to the type of propaganda used by Islamic terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida to radicalize and recruit members.

During an interview with Scientific American magazine, Dr. Bandy Lee, the principal editor of the 2017 bestseller "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump," explained how a mentally pathological leader can "infect" his followers and perhaps even an entire nation:

I have outlined two major emotional drives: narcissistic symbiosis and shared psychosis. Narcissistic symbiosis refers to the developmental wounds that make the leader-follower relationship magnetically attractive. The leader, hungry for adulation to compensate for an inner lack of self-worth, projects grandiose omnipotence — while the followers, rendered needy by societal stress or developmental injury, yearn for a parental figure. When such wounded individuals are given positions of power, they arouse similar pathology in the population that creates a "lock and key" relationship….

"Shared psychosis" — which is also called "folie à millions" ["madness for millions"] when occurring at the national level or "induced delusions" — refers to the infectiousness of severe symptoms that goes beyond ordinary group psychology. When a highly symptomatic individual is placed in an influential position, the person's symptoms can spread through the population through emotional bonds, heightening existing pathologies and inducing delusions, paranoia and propensity for violence — even in previously healthy individuals. The treatment is removal of exposure.

Trump and his regime gave permission and encouragement to his followers and other supporters to engage in antisocial and other anti-human behavior on a national scale. Once such a process has begun, and those forces are unleashed, it is not easy to stop. Fascism is not a simple machine with an on-and-off switch. In practice, fascism is given life and takes corporeal form through its followers, with each one being a potential carrier of the pathology.

As Hussein Ibish warned in a recent article in the Atlantic, "The cancer of political violence is not an endemic American disease. At the moment, it is a Republican disease. No one but Republicans themselves can cure it. Until they do, the violence of the right is only going to keep swelling and crashing. From a Middle Eastern perspective, this is all appallingly familiar."

Fascism is a highly virulent social disease that usually destroys the host body – but not before spreading the disease to many other people. In fact, if the original host dies, he or she can be elevated to the status of martyr for "the cause," serving to inspire existing followers and lure in new ones.

Ultimately, Donald Trump, like other fascist and authoritarian leaders, is the symptom of a sick society. Trumpism is not actually the core disease. For America to counteract the deep underlying illness that has made Trumpism possible will require a long-term cultural and moral reckoning. Anything less, and the disease of American fascism will only go dormant until it is resurrected again — perhaps in a more dangerous and virulent form.

A panel of mental health experts warn about the likely effects of a Trump comeback: 'Beyond our current worst nightmares'

Donald Trump's presidency and the destructive forces it unleashed are a mental health emergency — as well as a public health emergency in general. Trump may no longer be president, but his fascist political movement and the political party he controls continues to cause harm.

Trumpism is both a political cult and a manifestation of collective narcissism. Tens of millions of his followers now live in an alternate reality sustained by the Big Lie, an upside-down world in which Donald Trump is still the "real" president of the United States. Many of Trump's followers believe that he should be returned to power by any means available, including terrorism and other political violence.

The Trump regime and Republican policies more generally have literally caused trauma — physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual — for millions of Americans, including of course the deaths of at least 700,000 people from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a recent essay, author and pastor John Pavlovitz addresses this:

[F]or the first time in America's history the latent ugliness in people was revealed and validated and celebrated by a sitting president — it was officially normalized. And what we're experiencing now; this staggering, insensitive posturing in the face of so many people's suffering, is the late-ripening fruit of something that has been set into the bedrock of half our nation. It is the malicious entitlement that MAGA was designed to nurture from the beginning....

This quickly metastasizing moral cancer is something we've never experienced on this level in our lifetimes and it's something we're going to have to reckon with regardless of the political outcomes of the next four years. If the former president somehow takes that office again, these stories will surely grow exponentially more violent and more commonplace, but either way, the ugliness is here now.

The Trump Effect on America, is that once reasonable, rational human beings whose prejudices, fears, and phobias were all bound by some baseline decorum and common courtesy that kept them from intentionally harming others — have been empowered to revel in the worst of themselves. They believe cruelty is their birthright.

As early as 2015, many mental health experts began to warn that a Trump presidency would be disastrous for America and the world. They were correct in nearly all of their predictions.

It is likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican Party's presidential nominee in 2024. (In fact, the only unknown variable is whether he will actually decide to run.) Contrary to the naïve thinking of those Americans who believed Trump might magically go away, as president or otherwise he will be a fixture in American life for the foreseeable future.

What will happen to the American people's collective mental and emotional health if Donald Trump runs for president again — or if he is elected? What kind of damage would Trump inflict on America and the world in a second term? And how do we explain why so many Americans — both ordinary citizens and members of the political and media classes — continue to be "surprised" by the torrent of revelations about Trump's mental pathologies and his antisocial, anti-democratic behavior?

I recently asked several leading mental health experts — all of whom I have previously interviewed for Salon — to offer their warnings and predictions.

Dr. Lance Dodes is a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a training and supervising analyst emeritus at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.

The latest revelations about Trump confirm what we have known for years. Stephanie Grisham, his former press secretary, says, "The truth was that pretty much everyone eventually wore out their welcome with the president." This points to Trump's inability to comprehend or value other people; he can only use them while they serve his endless need to aggrandize himself, then discard them when they do not.

Grisham says, "When I began to see how his temper wasn't just for shock value or the cameras, I began to regret my decision to go to the West Wing." Here, she finally sees that Trump is not "crazy like a fox" but is truly a severely disordered person, in poor control and a danger to others. In Bob Woodward's book, as reported in the Guardian [and elsewhere], on Trump's way out of office, he drops F-bombs, "spewing expletives" and screaming at cabinet colleagues: "I don't care a fuck. You're all fucked up. You're all fucked."

This is an example of his paranoia, in which he denies responsibility for his multiple failures and losses, projecting these to others whom he condemns as worthless. Each of these revelations points to one or another aspect of Trump's delusional sociopathy: his absence of a conscience, incapacity to care about or empathize with others, projection of blame to others (paranoia) and his psychotic distortion of reality in order to maintain his belief that he has a godlike superiority.

Trump's primitive emotional state make him an enormous danger to democracy, which he cannot abide. As a consequence, if he were to again become president, the end of democracy in this country would become a realistic possibility.

Dr. Justin Frank is a former clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center. He is the author of "Bush on the Couch" and "Obama on the Couch." His most recent book is "Trump on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President."

Trump once had an internal conflict between being a builder and a destroyer. No longer is it a conflict; he is a destroyer, plain and simple. Unconsciously, his destructive force was originally directed against his tyrannical and punitive father, displaced onto investors, the media, banks, etc. But his ultimate displacement has been on the founding fathers of America's democratic experiment.

He attacks basic institutions, from the CIA to the FBI to Congress itself. And since November 2020, he has put our entire electoral process in his crosshairs. If he were nominated and elected in 2024 — accounting for skewed results, in the event that right-wing voter suppression tactics are successful — it would mean that more Americans than ever embrace authoritarianism, and that would deliver the deepest blow to our democratic process in our history.

Psychologically, people yearn for strong leadership. However, they fail to understand that sorrow is the vitamin of growth, of strength. President Biden has been strengthened over his lifetime by facing sorrow and loss. Trump denies loss by triumphing over it with powerful defensive grandiosity. A leader who breaks things is also admired, interestingly, by adoring followers. They admire his ability to say and do things they themselves could never say or do in public. Trump fills that need perfectly.

The other major effect of a Trump victory in 2024 would be the likely apathy and despair felt by those who fought against him.

Elizabeth Mika is a psychotherapist and contributor to the 2017 bestseller "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump."

The "revelations" really just confirm what we have known about Trump for years, long before he was elected. People with his character defect, malignant narcissism, are sadly predictable: They are driven by insatiable drives for adulation and power, and an unceasing desire for revenge on those who may interfere (or be perceived as interfering) with the realization of those drives.

It is really too bad that our media, broadly speaking, has remained in the dark about Trump's well-defined character pathology. Therefore, many journalists, mostly among the mainstream news media, continue to be shocked by these "revelations" as if unable and/or unwilling to finally arrive at an understanding of Trump's disordered character.

If Trump runs and wins in 2024, we will see an accelerated continuation of our demise. Every negative trend we are experiencing now will be augmented, especially our polarization, inequality and violence.

As of now, 21 million Americans believe that Trump, whose presidency was stolen from him, should be restored by violent force — and they are ready to make it happen.

Dr. David Reiss is a psychiatrist, expert in mental fitness evaluations and contributor to "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump."

I am totally unsurprised. But vindication does not soothe the national tragedy or my personal frustration and even bitterness (which are of much less significance) at having been ignored by those who had power to intervene.

No one could have predicted Trump's specific actions while in office or now: His specific behaviors are inherently unpredictable. But the nature of his behaviors, the irrationality of his behaviors, the immaturity of his behaviors and the dangers brought about those behaviors were all quite predictable and in fact, were predicted.

You asked: What do I think will happen to America if Trump runs for office and wins in 2024?

In my opinion, the even more frightening question is this: "What would it mean had happened to the American people and American society if Trump were returned to office in 2024?"

It would mean there had been: 1) a complete breakdown of rationality within the social order; 2) the destruction of our democratic system of elections and government; or 3) that something so horrible had transpired that all hope was lost and, due to fear and desperation, totalitarianism or fascism had been embraced.

As to what would happen afterward, it would depend upon who was actually "pulling the strings" of the totalitarian/fascist regime for which Trump was the figurehead. Trump himself, at age 78 certainly would not actually be in command. I cannot begin to predict the exact manner or type of dystopia that would be enacted. I can predict that it would be beyond our current worst nightmares.

Dr. John Gartner is a psychologist, psychoanalyst and former professor at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School, and the founder of Duty to Warn. He was also a contributor to "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump."

Democracy would be dead, and the coup complete. All future "elections" would be Putin-style shams, where the electorate never actually has the power to remove the Republicans from power.

We could expect criminal prosecutions against Democratic leaders, the press and anyone who opposed the regime. Experts of all types would be persecuted. "Patriots" would be encouraged to expose, punish and marginalize citizens at all levels of society who are not MAGA. Fox would become de facto state-TV propaganda. Only loyal "party members" would be allowed to work in government.

Hate crimes would skyrocket. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants would be incarcerated in concentration camps.

Thousands of ordinary citizens would join cells of an "underground resistance," which would become progressively more violent. This "terrorism" would be used to justify martial law and heavy surveillance. Millions would flee to Canada and Europe.

Internationally, the U.S. would become a Russian puppet state. NATO and our international alliances would crumble. The economy would contract. Global warming would spiral out of control. And we might well stumble into war.

Dr. Seth D. Norrholm is a translational neuroscientist and one of the world's leading experts on PTSD and fear. He is currently scientific director at the Neuroscience Center for Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma (NeuroCAST) in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine.

The revelations that are merging from various sources who had access to the Trump White House are not at all surprising. As I and others have commented on for years now, no matter how you label or classify the former president's behavior (malignantly narcissistic, sociopathic, psychopathic, abusive), there is an underlying thread of immaturity. This immaturity plays itself out as an inability to regulate emotion, a behavioral profile typically seen in children and adolescents. It is therefore not surprising to hear about the former president's uncontrollable rage and the allegation that he had a handler specifically tasked with soothing him like a toddler. I expect similar stories to continue to come out.

What happens if the former president runs for office again in 2024 – and possibly wins? This would be a complete failure of several social, political, governmental, ethical and professional "guardrails."

From the perspective of the former president as an abuser, a future Trump candidacy and potential presidency would be a psychological slap in the face to all of his victims from the past six years. I've often used the analogy of an abusive relationship when it comes to the former president and his approach to governing. If the watering-down of the Mueller investigation and the acquittal following evidence-heavy impeachment proceedings was akin to the arrest and subsequent release of a criminally abusive spouse, a return to office would indicate zero accountability for, and an acceptance of, physical and emotional abuse from our leadership; a trend that has been gathering steam for some time now.

Considering the former president incited an attack on his own country and has continued to push the Big Lie undermining our electoral process, our democracy (already on life support) would suffer likely irreversible damage if this is further ignored and already eroded norms are obliterated beyond repair.

Moreover, considering that more than 700,000 Americans have died from a pandemic that could have been better controlled, which the former president downplayed to protect his political future, allowing a return to the campaign trail and potentially the White House would frankly forgive an accessory to negligent homicide on an unprecedented scale.

Taken together, the nation and the world would be presented with the psychologically untenable position of having to accept the worst that humanity has to offer, according to almost all of the "standards" established by modern society, as its leader once again.

Political scientist on the crisis of democracy: 'This is the same roadmap we saw in Germany'

In a recent interview with MSNBC, former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt issued a stern warning to Americans who have not yet grasped the nature of our present crisis of democracy. "We have an autocratic movement teeming with violence and the intimations of violence in this country," he said, inviting viewers of the liberal news channel to imagine "that domestic terrorist, that criminal who desecrated the American flag by wrapping it around his head, who committed violence in the name of right-wing extremism."

What is it that he has heard? He has heard that he lives in an occupied country with an illegitimate president who lost the election, who was put into power by millions of fraudulent votes, mostly Black and brown votes out of the inner cities. …

Discussing the threat still posed by former President Donald Trump, Schmidt observed that Republicans seem obsessed with "the language of violence, the image of the gun, the idea that their countrymen are their enemies":

So, historically, we know when you put all of that fuel on the ground and you start throwing sparks at it, you can ignite a conflagration, and when you dehumanize people the way that this man and this movement has, in the end, it kills people. Historically, this type of politics has wound up, in its worst excesses, killing tens of millions of people. That's why it's such a frightening moment, and that's why it's time to wake up and understand that we don't have a shortage-of-panic-buttons problem. We have a political extremism problem that is very quickly metastasizing into violent extremism that we'll be dealing with for a generation because of what happened over the last five years.

New polling and other research show that tens of millions of Americans have been radicalized into potentially supporting political violence in order to remove Joe Biden — who they perceive as a usurper — from office. This is part of a larger pattern where the Republican-fascist movement will support any strategy or tactics they believe will help preserve their "way of life."

To that point, a new poll from the University of Virginia's Center for Politics shows that more than 50% of Trump voters would support seceding from the Union. Given the racial grievance and white supremacy politics of Trump's followers, such a course of action could lead to a second American civil war. It is no coincidence that a fair number of Trump's terrorists waved Confederate flags as they attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Ultimately, the coup attempt of January is only a prelude to similar events in the future, when Republicans and their allies fully intend to overthrow any election they lose, and therefore deem illegitimate. In a much-discussed recent essay at the Washington Post, Robert Kagan summarizes this moment of existential crisis:

The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves. The warning signs may be obscured by the distractions of politics, the pandemic, the economy and global crises, and by wishful thinking and denial….
We are already in a constitutional crisis. The destruction of democracy might not come until November 2024, but critical steps in that direction are happening now. In a little more than a year, it may become impossible to pass legislation to protect the electoral process in 2024. Now it is impossible only because anti-Trump Republicans, and even some Democrats, refuse to tinker with the filibuster. It is impossible because, despite all that has happened, some people still wish to be good Republicans even as they oppose Trump. These decisions will not wear well as the nation tumbles into full-blown crisis.

What comes next? Can a full-on collapse of America's democratic institutions and political culture be stopped? Why has the mainstream news media consistently normalized the anti-democratic and other politically deviant behavior of the Trump regime and the Republican Party? Can the media confront its own culpability in terms of failing to warn the American people about the rising threat of fascism?

In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Norm Ornstein, emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and co-author of the bestselling books "One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported" and "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism."

Ornstein has been a guest on numerous cable and broadcast news outlets, including CBS News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and "PBS NewsHour." His essays and other writing have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic, and other leading publications.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

American democracy and our system of government feels like it's all on the verge of collapse. These deep crises that made Trumpism possible feel like a type of national breakdown or crackup. My concern is that once things are this broken, they cannot be put back together again. Help me make sense of these feelings and intuitions.

I believe that it is more broken than anything else. There are several layers of problems here.

One layer is that the Republican Party has really descended into the abyss. It's not a party anymore. It's a cult, a full-blown cult. We could call it a cult of personality, but it was really a cult before Donald Trump came along. He's just the leader right now. We see this, for example, with the fact that literally only two Republican members of Congress were willing to stand up to a violent insurrection and a complete collapse of norms — and that is in the House and Senate combined.

Mitch McConnell is saying that if the Republicans recapture the majority in the Senate, he won't vote to seat any Supreme Court nominee from Joe Biden. There is also the COVID response by Republican governors and other elected officials.

This problem is going to get worse before it gets better at the level of elected officials. Every serious candidate that Republicans have for president is going to be saying, "I'm just like Donald Trump, except I'm tougher, meaner and stronger." Anybody who is even to the slightest side toward sanity is going nowhere in today's Republican Party. That is a big problem at the level of elites and across the federal, state and local levels.

There is also the problem that begins with the leadership of Trump and extends down through Tucker Carlson, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham and many others, including social media more generally. That's the problem of disinformation, misinformation and conspiracy theories.

There is a major cultural gap that is not going away anytime soon. For example, 30% of the Republicans basically say that violence is appropriate if people are supposedly trying to "destroy your way of life." In this case, "destroying your way of life" means basically doing anything that does not protect white people first.

Then you've got the fact that there's not just voter suppression, but that direct attempts to overturn the results of lawful and fair elections are running rampant.

We are also seeing a Supreme Court that will basically provide no boundaries. There is the farce of having the most extreme partisan justices saying, "Well, it's ridiculous to think that decisions are made on the basis of personal views or partisanship." These Supreme Court justices are not only partisans, they are liars.

We can mitigate some of these problems with election and voting reform. We can also reform the laws that enabled Donald Trump to use executive power in misguided ways. But ultimately, I would say the system is broken.

Why do America's political elites, especially the pundit class, keep treating these "revelations" about Trump and his regime's criminality and attacks on democracy as something surprising? The coup attempt and attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 were all obvious and threatened in public by Trump and his followers.

The sheer volume of scandals dilutes the impact of each of them singularly and together. Most people don't pay close attention, day to day, to what's going on. When you see a scandal become something of political consequence is when it gets hammered away at, day after day and week after week. That can be a real scandal or a faux scandal.

An example would be the Afghanistan withdrawal. The American news media were all over that story for 10 days. Almost all of the coverage was harshly critical. For a large number of Americans who had not really spent three minutes thinking about Afghanistan previously, the story is processed as being something terrible that happened all of a sudden.

The signal that goes out to the general public is that if something is discussed on the front page on a regular basis, or on the cable news programs and the Sunday programs, over and over and over again, it must therefore be something serious and important. If a news story comes up and then disappears the next day, that must mean it is not important.

There is an obsession with being "neutral" and doing the "both sides" type of coverage. They do not know how to treat abnormal behavior, therefore the American news media largely normalizes it. And there's a certain amount of bandwidth that news organizations are going to give to stories about a president or a president's family or an administration. If there are 20 stories, 19 of them are not going to get covered — and the 20th story will soon be superseded by another one that comes along.

We are also in a situation where the mainstream news media wants to show equal treatment, which means they take a president like Joe Biden, who doesn't have scandals of any significance, and then blow them up by using the same amount of bandwidth as was used to cover Donald Trump. That story on Biden has more resonance because there is only one such story to focus on.

So many members of the media kept denying even the possibility that Trump and his regime would attempt a coup. They were openly contemptuous of voices who kept trying to warn the public about what was obvious and imminent. Will those individuals and organizations in the media ever publicly explain or apologize for their failings in terms of Jan. 6 and the Trump era more generally?

The New York Times, just days before the 2016 election, had a front-page, above-the-fold story saying that the FBI says there is no evidence of Russian connections to Trump's campaign. That story had a big impact. Whoever in the FBI gave the Times that story lied. Now, does the Times out the person who lied?

If you have a source and the bargain is that they will remain anonymous if they give you significant information, and they lie to you, that bargain is broken. Has the New York Times ever apologized for publishing an utterly inaccurate and distorted and deceptive story that could have turned the election? No, of course not. Are there news organizations that are willing to apologize for their failures or their misleading stories? No. If you get a story on the front page that's wrong and you show factually that it's wrong, you'll get a correction somewhere inside.

This notion that a news organization never explains and never apologizes unless they are under threat of a lawsuit that could cost them large sums of money is deeply ingrained in the DNA of journalism. This is especially true of large and highly influential news organizations. If they are wrong about a major story — because they just didn't get what was going on, not because they published something that was flat out wrong — the likelihood that you'll get an apology or that they'll learn a lesson from it or do anything about it is zero.

It is one thing to make mistakes and or do false equivalents on the small stuff. When a country is at a point where it is crystal clear that the fundamentals of your political system are on the cusp of being destroyed, the first thing that will happen, if and when those democratic norms and institutions are gone, is that the free press will no longer exist. We have seen that with every authoritarian society. So the failure to change, to understand and to be blunt about the reality of what's happening in this country is not just reckless for the American people. It is suicidal for the news media. In the end, that just shows how ingrained these practices I outlined above are.

For Black and brown folks, poor and working-class folks, women as a group, gays and lesbians, undocumented people and other marginalized folks, none of this is an abstraction. America's democracy crisis and the rising fascist tide are literally a matter of life and death for those communities. But so many in the media elite are members of a social milieu where they are deeply invested in the system and have convinced themselves that they are immune from these threats. Is it that simple?

In general, it is just denial. It's denial and it is also just an unwillingness or inability to change decades-long patterns of behavior. In terms of the reporters who cover the White House and Congress, their own careers are tied to access. They pal around with the people they cover. I see not just Manchin and Sinema but many others talking about their "Republican friends" and how they can all get along. I know a lot of these Republicans. I've had meals with many of them.

There are some who are really kind of fun to be around — not the completely crazy ones — but others have gone along with all of the bad behavior. You can get lulled into thinking that is all just temporary, or that the Republicans really don't believe these extreme things. You can convince yourself that it's only a small fringe group doing such things. It distracts a person who operates in this political insider world that the Republicans vote for these policies repeatedly. They protect each other and they're all in on the cult.

There is another disconnect as well. So many members of this political class I am describing have never faced discrimination. It is just not on their radar screens in the same way as people who have. They're not sensitive to it. How can you not look at what we have seen, with a violent coup and everything else that's followed, and not recognize that you are at risk of racism and nativism?

People who have had in their family histories a history of discrimination and worse are going to be more sensitive to the path that's being taken here in this country — and sensitive to the reality that this is the same roadmap that we saw in Germany.

But even for a whole lot of journalists who are or should be in that category, it gets superseded by the way in which they do their own business. To me, that is as sad as anything else.

Is American democracy and its political culture and governmental system facing a legitimacy crisis?

Yes, the United States is experiencing a legitimacy crisis. One recent prominent example: the Arizona fraudulent "audit" says that Biden "won."

There is another disconnect as well. So many members of this political class I am describing have never faced discrimination. It is just not on their radar screens in the same way as people who have. They're not sensitive to it. How can you not look at what we have seen, with a violent coup and everything else that's followed, and not recognize that you are at risk of racism and nativism?

People who have had in their family histories a history of discrimination and worse are going to be more sensitive to the path that's being taken here in this country — and sensitive to the reality that this is the same roadmap that we saw in Germany.

But even for a whole lot of journalists who are or should be in that category, it gets superseded by the way in which they do their own business. To me, that is as sad as anything else.

Is American democracy and its political culture and governmental system facing a legitimacy crisis?

Yes, the United States is experiencing a legitimacy crisis. One recent prominent example: the Arizona fraudulent "audit" says that Biden "won."

There is also the Electoral College, which is growing more and more distorted. Even if the elections are fair, it means there's a greater likelihood that we will elect, several more times, presidents who lose the popular vote, perhaps by millions of votes.

At some point the majority of Americans are going to see those presidential elections as illegitimate. We've got crises all over the place in this country and society.

America is amusing itself to death

America remains in the grip of an existential democracy crisis: Donald Trump's Republican-fascists and their movement are on the march, winning victory after victory while the Democrats and the "resistance" are hunkered down, doing little if anything to fight back.

Yet the gatekeepers among the American news media appear more interested in stories about Nicki Minaj's cousin's possibly imaginary friend, who supposedly suffered swollen testicles because of the coronavirus vaccine — supposedly damaging his marital prospects — than in doing the hard work of advocating for democracy and real accountability.

America is literally amusing itself to death, even as we learn further details about how Donald Trump and his agents attempted a coup to overthrow American democracy after his defeat in the 2020 election. The newest "revelation": Step-by-step plans for this coup were outlined in a memo written by right-wing lawyer John Eastman, who became a key Trump adviser during the latter days of his presidency.

Some of the most influential voices in America's mainstream news media — with the notable exceptions of CNN and the Washington Post — have largely ignored this story. At Mother Jones, Tim Murphy offers these details of Eastman's memo, and the media's non-response:

In six concise bullet-points, the memo outlined a process by which Vice President Mike Pence could use his powers on January 6 to throw out the electors from seven states that President Joe Biden won in the 2020 election. The plan counted on Republicans in those states to submit competing sets of electors, based on the false and fabricated premise that Trump had somehow won those states … .

Not knowing for sure what happens when you dissociate "peaceful transfer of power" from "a society entirely predicated on it," I sort of think this is a pretty big deal. This is a break-the-glass moment, as some have said, only someone else already broke the glass and took the axe and is running around with it.

But it is not such a big deal, apparently, if you watch network TV news. On Wednesday, Media Matters' Matt Gertz
reported that the total number of minutes devoted to the story on either the morning or evening editions of ABC, NBC, or CBS News in the first two days after the memo was published was zero. "In fact," Gertz wrote, "the only national network broadcasts to mention Trump's coup memo were the late-night variety shows hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers."

In a new essay for the Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan offers this warning about what the media silence surrounding this newest "revelation" reveals about America's democracy crisis:

In a normal world, the "Eastman memo" would be infamous by now, the way "Access Hollywood" became the popular shorthand in 2016 for the damning recording of Donald Trump's bragging about groping women.
But it's a good bet that most people have never even heard of the Eastman memo.

That says something troubling about how blasé the mainstream press has become about the attempted coup in the aftermath of the 2020 election — and how easily a coup could succeed next time.

The news media gatekeepers would likely defend their choice to focus on Nicki Minaj's tall tale with an argument that stories about celebrities provide a way to pivot to larger issues of public concern. In essence, that a pop star's Nicki uninformed comments about vaccines offer a "teachable moment".

But the more basic and more plausible explanation is that the American people are attracted to juvenile and immature distractions, and that those impulses drive the mainstream news media's ad revenues. Those concerns should wither away in the face of an unprecedented crisis of democracy crisis. Of course, that is unlikely to happen.

The news media fulfills an important agenda-setting function in a society, and this is especially true in a democracy where freedom of the press is foundational. As a practical matter, the fourth estate tells the public what they should pay attention to and how they should think about it. In that context, elevating a story about a celebrity's perhaps-invented vaccine anecdote over the details of a coup plot offers one more indictment of an American news media that continues to normalize neofascism.

Moreover, the news media's evasion of any sustained conversation about the Republican-fascist coup attempt reflects the pathologies of an emotionally immature society, incapable of facing the crises it is now experiencing. Given that, how will American society possibly confront or address enormous challenges such as the global climate disaster, the continuing pandemic, mass shootings and gun violence, wealth and income inequality, profound technological disruptions to labor and the economy, racism and white supremacy, right-wing terrorism and other violence, dire threats to the rule of law and the constitutional order and so much more?

America's democracy crisis reveals another frightening truth about our culture of distraction and immaturity: There are some in the media who actually yearn for Donald Trump's return to national office. For many in the media elites — who believe themselves to be largely insulated from the day-to-day consequences of fascism, white supremacy, and other antisocial and anti-human behavior — Trump was a source of huge profits and heightened prestige.

Media critic Eric Boehlert explored this in a recent newsletter, writing that while "American democracy is teetering increasingly close to the abyss," the media "continues to play a dangerous game by refusing to acknowledge the danger":

Even in the wake of the newest revelations of how Trump and his team aggressively tried to engineer a coup by invalidating millions of votes last year, he's still being normalized in the day-to-day coverage, as the press eagerly awaits his return to the campaign trail. ("When Will Trump Answer the Big 2024 Question?" the New York Times asked.)

There's nothing Trump could do at this point that would invalidate him in the eyes of the political press, and that includes him shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue….

He remains a captivating topic who provides endless angles of intrigue and who is treated as a looming star of American politics. Forget about that coup stuff; Trump's lawless, violent mob that rampaged inside the U.S. Capitol for hours, knocking officers unconscious and destroying offices of Democratic members. Whatever shock Trump's deadly insurrection initially generated among Beltway journalists has since worn off. \

Annoyed by President Joe Biden's "boring" administration, journalists seem eager for the chaos and clicks that Trump creates — no defeated

Boehlert continues by observing that "the D.C. press can barely contain its excitement at the idea of the 2020 loser running again," adding that "everyone knows if he wins a second term, every minute of every White House press briefing would be carried live and in full, just as they were for his first term. ... A dangerous autocrat who's devoted to wrecking the American election process is waiting in the wings to become the GOP nominee in 2024, and the Beltway press can't wait."

In other words, too many in the media refuse to focus on the serious threats to American democracy and society embodied by Donald Trump and the neofascist movement, largely because they find the spectacle so enthralling.

I continue to ask myself what kind of movie this is. What version of the simulation are we stuck in as America continues to slip deeper into fascist unreality?

Perhaps it's as simple and complex as Mike Judge's 2006 film "Idiocracy," where the ignorant masses live in a full-on corporate dictatorship, where the most popular movie in the country consists of a naked butt farting on screen. Or perhaps America has surrendered to the prescient warnings of the 2018 film "Sorry to Bother You," where the most popular reality show on television features contestants who allow themselves to be physically abused and otherwise humiliated.

As the country succumbs to fascism, the American people, for the most part, are like the moviegoers in the cover image of the classic edition of Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle," sitting transfixed in 3D glasses, seduced by the images on the screen and numb to the world outside. Trump's agents, allies, and followers have set the theater on fire, but to this point the audience hasn't noticed and likely would not even care if they did.

The fascists are still winning

Just over a week ago, the company that calls itself the Cyber Ninjas announced the results of its supposed "audit" of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County, Arizona, the state's major population center. Their findings were disappointing to hardcore Trump conspiracy theorists: Joe Biden's margin of victory actually increased by 99 votes, and there was no finding of systemic errors or election fraud.

In response, Donald Trump's critics and detractors among the news media, the liberal "resistance" and the general public resorted once again to laughter and mockery, resplendent in self-satisfaction that Trump's false claims had been debunked once again. All this was taken as one more example of how stupid, foolish and out of touch with reality Trump and his cultists really are.

If liberal schadenfreude were a drug, many of the Trump opposition were "high on their own supply" after the Arizona announcement.

As Trump's opponents dance in celebration of what they believe to be embarrassing setbacks for Trump and his movement, they had better beware of the pitfalls all around them. In reality, the fake audit in Arizona — which is soon to be copied in other states, including Texas — is another victory for Trump and the Republican-fascist movement in its war against American democracy.

Too many among the mainstream news media and political class are unwilling to acknowledge this fact, because they are products of, and beholden to an obsolescent way of thinking about politics and American society.

That world of "normal" politics is dying, and gradually being replaced by a malignant new normalcy. In response, new rules and frameworks must be adopted if we really want to stem the fascist tide. But decades of habit and personal, financial and emotional investment in a political and social system that rewarded American elites and their mouthpieces are not easy to reject.

To accept that new reality is a type of narcissistic injury; one's own obsolescence is a difficult thing to admit. It is a frightening and distressing to feel the old order turning into dust and sand as it slips through your fingers. In that moment, it's tempting to cling even harder, until there is nothing left to hold onto. Charles Pierce describes this in a recent essay at Esquire:

The scope of what is happening to self-government in this country seems to be far beyond the ability of many of our professional observers to contemplate. There is a straight line from angry school board meetings, to suppressive state election laws, to the continued thrall in which Trumpism holds the conservative movement, to the recalcitrance that will be demonstrated in the Congress over the next few days. The straight line continues beyond the events of this week, and you're not going to like where it eventually ends up.

If you still doubt that the fake election audits are successful tactics for Trump and the Republican-fascist movement, consider these facts:

Trumpism and other forms of fascism are fantasies dominated by backward reasoning. The leaders and followers have already decided that they have been betrayed, and will use any means available to win and keep power. They have committed themselves to a set of false "truths" in service to the cause. Reality as it actually exists will be bent and twisted to "prove" that these fantasies and their alternate reality are real.

For Trump and his followers, it is a declared truth that the 2020 election was "stolen" from him. They will unanimously reason backward from that conclusion to find the supposed proof. Whatever these so-called audits actually find will be viewed as evidence that the 2020 election was rigged and that Joe Biden is an illegitimate usurper.

These fake audits are a key component of the Big Lie, and strategically effective at maintaining control of the hearts and minds of Trump's followers and the Republican Party. Public opinion and other research has consistently demonstrated this; for example, more Republicans now believe the Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election than did immediately after the insurrection of Jan. 6.

These fake audits and others will be used to provide false credibility to the Republican-fascist movement's attacks on democracy. If the fake audits "confirm" that Biden actually won — a self-evident fact — then the process has been shown to be "fair," creating a new norm in which the Republican-fascists and their operatives can "audit" any and all future elections in the future. Once this process becomes institutionalized, it can be used as a tool to undermine or overturn any elections won by Democrats.

The fake audits will also allow right-wing operatives to gain information about and access to voting systems, which will make vote theft, vote rigging and other types of real election fraud much more likely.

These fake audits are also a means of encouraging right-wing terrorism and political violence directed against Democrats and other designated enemies of the Republican-fascist movement. The Big Lie and its many associated little lies about the 2020 election have already resulted in violent threats and acts of intimidation against state and local election officials. These threats have become so extreme that many of experienced election workers are resigning or being forced out, and in many cases replaced by Trump Republicans in a coordinated campaign to control or undermine future elections.

Armed right-wing paramilitaries and other street thugs were present among the crowd in Phoenix waiting for the results of the fake audit. These threats of terrorism and other violence are not implied: If Trump and the Republicans lose elections or lose political power, the possibility of bloodshed grows more severe.

Belief in the Big Lie and the need for fake audits of the 2020 election has become a litmus test and loyalty oath for the Republican-fascist movement. If a Republican elected official, or even a private citizen, rejects these claims, they are to be purged from the movement for "disloyalty."

Donald Trump will in all likelihood be the 2024 Republican presidential nominee. The Big Lie and endless rounds of election "audits" are an excellent fundraising tool. Based on his previous behavior, Donald Trump will also use this money to line his own pockets.

In a new interview at Politico, Rick Hasen, a law professor at UC Irvine and expert on democratic institutions, explains the dire political crisis that America is facing and the role that "election subversion" — as seen in these fake audits — plays in the fascist onslaught:

So, Georgia recently passed a new voting law. One of the things that law does is it makes it a crime to give water to people waiting in a long line to vote — unless you're an election official, in which case you can direct people to water. That's voter suppression — that will deter some people who are stuck in a long line from voting. Election subversion is not about making it harder for people to vote, but about manipulating the outcome of the election so that the loser is declared the winner or put in power.

It's the kind of thing that I never expected we would worry about in the United States. I never thought that in this country, at this point in our democracy, we would worry about the fairness of the actual vote counting. But we have to worry about that now….

In 2020, things shifted. The rhetoric is so overheated that I think it provides the basis for millions of people to accept an actual stolen election as payback for the falsely claimed earlier "stolen" election. People are going to be more willing to cheat if they think they've been cheated out of their just deserts. And if [you believe] Trump really won, then you might take whatever steps are necessary to assure that he is not cheated the next time — even if that means cheating yourself. That's really the new danger that this wave of voter fraud claims presents.

The fake audits in Arizona and elsewhere are not a joke.Those who choose to laugh are driven by self-interest, anxiety, fear and denial. They are retreating from the ugly reality of the situation, and from the hard work that will be necessary to save or redeem democracy.

Investigative reporter explains how the Pentagon knows more about you than you do

During his speech before the UN last week, President Biden said that the United States had closed an era of relentless war in Afghanistan. That high-minded language was an overly idealized description of the American "withdrawal" and what comes next. The truth about America and Afghanistan is much more complicated and dark.

In reality, the U.S. military could not defeat the Taliban over 20 years of war and finally capitulated. The Afghan debacle was part of the larger "War on Terror," also known as the forever wars, that followed the traumatic events of 9/11.

The war in Afghanistan left 2,400 American troops dead and tens of thousands wounded — many of whom will need lifelong care for their physical, psychological and injuries. It is estimated that at least 30,000 current or former service members have committed suicide as a result of trauma suffered in Afghanistan, Iraq and other theaters of the forever wars.

Almost a million people in Afghanistan and across the Middle East have died because of America's endless wars. Thousands of America's Afghan partners were abandoned last month. They and their families are now trying to escape the country or hide from the Taliban for fear of violent retaliation.

The war in Afghanistan cost the American people trillions of dollars, an amount that will continue to grow as interest accrues on the debt. Those vast sums of money could have been used instead to improve health care, infrastructure and education, to address wealth and income inequality and the climate crisis, and to improve the life chances of Americans more generally.

America's war in Afghanistan has come home in other ways. We now have an immensely expanded surveillance society that uses biometric technologies and other innovations out of dystopian speculative fiction, now made real in the present. To discuss these little-understood areas of technology, I recently spoke with investigative journalist and bestselling author Annie Jacobsen, whose books include "Area 51," "The Pentagon's Brain," "Operation Paperclip," and "Surprise, Kill, Vanish."

Her most recent book is "First Platoon: A Story of Modern War in the Age of Identity Dominance."

In this conversation, Jacobsen explains how biometric technology was used by the U.S. military in an attempt to create a database containing personal biological information (such as iris scans) on millions of Afghan civilians. Jacobsen explains t that his kind of data collection is part of a great change in post-9/11 military planning, where highly detailed information about individuals is viewed as more valuable than intelligence about armies. Jacobsen warns that biometric information and surveillance are increasingly a part of day-to-day life in America, where privacy and other civil liberties are being imperiled and the public remains largely unaware.

Towards the end of this conversation, Jacobsen details how the Chinese government is using the biometric techniques and technologies used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan to empower state repression, including ethnic cleansing and a totalitarian "brainwashing" campaign directed against the Uyghur people.

We have just seen the withdrawal from Afghanistan, followed by the 20-year anniversary of Sept. 11 and, of course, the ongoing tsunami of daily news on the day-to-day about Trump, the pandemic and politics more generally. How are you feeling? How are you making sense of it?

I think of it as another day at the reporter's desk. It also just another day at the storyteller's desk. I try to look at events through the long lens of history.

These events in Afghanistan strike me as being part of a cycle of history that is repeating itself. On the anniversary of 9/11 and with what happened in Afghanistan, I am nodding my head as I reflect upon on what Eisenhower warned us about in his 1961 farewell speech, which is the military-industrial complex.

That phrase is now part of the vernacular. But what is the military-industrial complex, specifically? How does that concept help us to understand Afghanistan and the "War on Terror"?

The military-industrial complex is the idea that there is a need for weapons that is created by wars, that in turn creates a need for weapons. It is part of a very large system. It's actually been called a "system of systems" that pushes the idea of a military-industrial complex forward ad infinitum. It's not a self-fulfilling prophecy, it's a self-fulfilling situation.

How do the military-industrial complex and related actors see Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East more broadly?

By no means am I suggesting that there is some cloak-an-dagger situation where people are sitting around and saying, "Let's start a war." What exists are these different systems that are entwined and work with one another. Consider Afghanistan. In my book "First Platoon," I write about the origin story of what is known as "biometrics."

Many people among the general public do not know what biometrics is. But they should start to care, because biometrics will be part of everyone's life very soon — and it actually already is, but most people don't know it yet.

Biometrics includes such things as fingerprints, iris scans, facial images and your DNA.Biometrics exist in the civilian and private sector and also in the defense world. Biometrics have long been applied in the criminal justice world. These elements are now merging together.

After 9/11, the Defense Department was shocked. The organizations inside the Defense Department that are involved in strategic planning suddenly realized: "Oh my God, here we are looking at the threat from satellite technology and how armies are going to be positioned." That had been the way of war throughout the Cold War for some 50 years. Then suddenly 9/11 happens, and the focus goes from extraordinarily wide and high satellite images to the myopic, literally down to one person. Nineteen individual men hijacked those planes and created 9/11 and then created the War on Terror.

The focus of the Defense Department swung around, and suddenly it was all about the individual. There is an organization that is part of the Defense Department called the Defense Science Board. They are made up of former military generals and members of the intelligence community — people who think about the next wave of weapons.

The secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, goes to the Defense Science Board after 9/11 and says, "What are we going to do? How are we going to win the War on Terror?"

And the Defense Science Board says, "We've got a great idea. We must create a Manhattan Project like program to tag, track and locate individual people." That is the birth of biometrics.

If you flash forward to the war in Afghanistan, the Defense Department was collecting biometrics and their goal was to include 80% of Afghan civilians. That is why soldiers were sent into the field with biometric capturing devices.

These are the young soldiers I interview in "First Platoon." They thought they were going to fight the Taliban. Instead they found themselves walking around in some of the most dangerous places in the world, stopping farmers in their fields and saying, "I need your fingerprint scanned." They were stopping women and saying, "Please lift up your veil. I need to take your iris scan." The enmity that created is astonishing. How could we possibly have thought that was a good idea, and a good way to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people?

What role did biometrics play on a daily basis for American soldiers and other warfighters in Afghanistan? How was the technology used, and to what ends?

The ultimate idea was that the Defense Department wanted to create a database of the Afghans' biometrics, their fingerprints, their iris scans, their facial images and their DNA, so that they have a big database of people. So in the event that someone committed a crime they could use that information to come up with what is called a "match hit."

We have the same system here in the United States. It is used by the FBI, but you have to have been a criminal or a criminal suspect to come in contact with it. If I get pulled over and the police decide to take my fingerprints, they're not going to get a match hit. They do not have my fingerprints because I have not been arrested. But this is changing, because they now have my iris scans because I went through U.S. customs when I came back from abroad.

To get biometric data on the Afghan people, the Defense Department pursued a program where they gave out these little biometric capturing devices — some were called "hides" and some were called "seeks." These devices all had different names and acronyms. There would be one person tasked with that responsibility per platoon. Once the patrol returns with biometric information, that soldier links up to another system and uploads the new information into the database.

What are some of the other systems interfacing with biometrics? It sounds like science fiction made real with a total surveillance society and detection of "pre-crime."

When I interviewed soldiers for First Platoon," only the person from the COIST team knew about the biometric mission. That knowledge is partitioned. But the real "aha" moment for me, when I was doing my reporting, was when I learned about something called a PGGS Airship. This is a giant balloon that was not visible to the soldiers on the ground from their outpost. It is tethered to a steel cable. The PGGS flies high in the air and is outfitted with a number of surveillance cameras that watch the soldiers on patrol. That system was gathering surveillance footage, what's called "full motion video," That sounds generic, but it actually has geolocating technology embedded into it.

That footage is then uploaded. The U.S. Army uses Palantir software, which aggregates the data and helps the Defense Department to identify targets. These "targets" are human beings. Based on that information a drone strike will be ordered on individual people or a group of persons.

What will it mean to the average American when this technology is used here in this country?

It is already here. These biometric and surveillance systems, such as the PGSS aerostat system, were born of war and have now come home to the United States.

This is all very tricky because of the ways in which biometric capture can occur. Here is one example. A person used to have to take an iris scan by putting a device up to your eyes. Going through U.S. Customs, you are told to put your face in a certain position. You think that a picture of your face is being taken. That is true, but your iris is also being scanned. DARPA is now actually planning to be to get a person's iris scans from 500 feet away.

For "First Platoon" I interviewed a police chief who explained the controversial aspects of something called "Clearview," which is a type of facial recognition technology. The police chief wanted to show me how it worked. We walked out to the street, and he said, "Turn that corner and walk around and come toward me." He pointed his iPhone in my direction.

Now there were all these photographs of me. I'm a public figure, so a person could reasonably conclude that is pretty easy to accomplish. However, there were private photographs of me there as well that had been posted elsewhere. It was all at the policeman's fingertips before I even reached him.

The technology itself is moving forward at science fiction-like speed. By comparison, these questions of privacy, search and seizure, and other constitutional rights are being debated at a snail's pace by the courts. The biometric systems will never go away. The courts cannot keep up with it. I believe that this is a real canary in the coal mine situation.

How are the American people going to be convinced that these biometric systems are a good thing? I am thinking specifically of how people willingly surrender so much personal information when they go to the supermarket or any online retailer, which is tracking their behavior in exchange for a discount. Another example would be people who give their DNA to online companies for supposed genealogical research or health purposes.

As you said, a person wants a discount at a store, for example. You quickly weigh the costs and benefits. Biometrics is just information about you. What the Department of Defense really wants is "identity dominance." In practice, this means that the Defense Department wants to know more about you than you know. A person may reply with, "How is that possible? No one can know more about me than me!" Well, I do not know what my heartbeat is right now. But the Defense Department is creating a biometric to be able to figure that out and identify me by my heartbeat. In that way, they know more about me than I do.

How should we explain to the public how dangerous this is?

It's the "if then." If I'm just walking down the street and all this information about me exists, it doesn't matter. But it's the "if then." If the police want to use the database for whatever reason, it is there.

Consider what is happening in China, where the government is persecuting the Uyghur people. They have decided that the Uyghurs are bad, so the Beijing government now requires that the Uyghur population undergo something called "physicals for all." That is the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda line. What is really means is that they must have their biometrics taken. This includes fingerprints, iris scans, facial images and DNA. If you are Uyghur, you must do that. There is now a Uyghur database that is being used to identify an entire population. That reminds me a lot of Nazi Germany.

It gets even worse, because we now know from satellite footage that the Chinese government is digging up cemeteries where Uyghur people are buried. This suggests to me that the Chinese government is looking at familial DNA. They are planning to cast that net wider. People who might not look like a Uyghur but are of Uyghur descent will be drawn into the pool of people who have been identified as "suspicious" and may need to be sent to a "re-education" camp.

This is terrifying. I would ask human rights organizations: Are you aware that what the Chinese are doing to the Uyghurs with biometrics is a page right out of the playbook of the U.S. Department of Defense in Afghanistan? We did it before the Chinese. We gave the Chinese the idea. No one comments on that.

Where is this information being stored in the United States? Is it possible to opt out or have your biometric information deleted?

There is now a biometric center in West Virginia where lots of the information is housed. Moreover, it is actually the first time on U.S. soil where the FBI and the Defense Department are collaborating on a program, which raises a whole bunch of other issues about posse comitatus. The Biometric Technology Center is new, it only opened in 2018. Its databases are growing. The State Department recently agreed to share some 80 million passport photos with other federal agencies. All of those facial images are going into the database.

There is no opting out. You're more than likely already in the system. The only people who are not in that database are those of us who do not have a driver's license or a passport, have never used Facebook or other social media, or have never had a problem with law enforcement.

Hillary Clinton's prescient warning was proved correct — but she paid the price for it

During a speech in September 2016, Hillary Clinton — then the Democratic presidential nominee — warned the American people and the world of the dangers represented by Donald Trump and his followers. She described the "volatile political environment" of that moment:

You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people, now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now some of those folks, they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.

In many ways, Clinton was too kind. If anything, she underestimated how many Americans were in fact committed and enthusiastic human deplorables.

After that speech, Clinton was pilloried by the mainstream news media, some leading Democrats, and of course the Republican Party and right-wing propaganda hate machine. Clinton's characterization of Trump's "basket of deplorables" was described as insensitive and unfair to the "white working class" Americans that elites and out-of-touch Democrats had too often ignored.

That reaction to Clinton's truth-telling helped to legitimate Trumpism and American neofascism (operating under the mask of "populism") as something that was reasonable and understandable, rather than as a manifestation of racial resentment, a racist temper tantrum and a declaration of white supremacy. This reflected our society's deep investment in a narrative of white racial innocence. In that logic, America is a great and exceptional country, and by implication, this is especially true of white people — especially those "real Americans" whose supposed patriotism and presumed Christian values render them a bit more American than anyone else.

Many members of the news media likely agreed with Clinton's warnings in private, but the institution as a whole had been beaten into submission by Republican fictions about so-called liberal bias. So it was that Clinton's warning about Trump and his "deplorables" — and their embrace of fascism — was deemed to be outside the limits of approved public discourse.

If Clinton's warnings had been heeded in 2016, we might be living in a quite different country today. America would not necessarily be drowning under a fascist tide which has imperiled our democracy and our future. Had Hillary Clinton been elected president, it's also likely that far fewer Americans would have been killed by the coronavirus pandemic, and the nation's economy might not have been pushed to the edge of a second Great Depression.

Matters are now so dire that it is now not a question of whether American democracy will succumb to a nightmare reign of full-on fascism but rather when that will happen. If America's neofascist movement continues to gain momentum, Joe Biden will be relegated to the role of a speed bump or an asterisk in American history.

In the five years since the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton has continued her efforts to rally America's pro-democracy forces against the right-wing and its fascist assaults. Last Tuesday, during a Guardian Live interview, she continued her warnings. The Guardian summarized her interview:

Hillary Clinton has said that the US was still in a "real battle for our democracy" against pro-Trump forces on the far right, seeking to entrench minority rule and turn back the clock on women's rights. ... Clinton fended off suggestions that the world was now witnessing the twilight of US democracy, but said: "I do believe we are in a struggle for the future of our country"…
"The January 6 insurrection at our capitol was a terrorist attack," Clinton added, noting the parallel with the 9/11 attacks. ... Clinton was also asked about the abortion ban passed in Texas at the beginning of this month, reversing gains for women's rights won a generation ago.
"So you ask if I'm surprised or discouraged. I'm neither. I'm not surprised because I've been involved in the women's movement, the civil rights movement," she said. "I've seen the forces that are arrayed against progress when it comes to women's autonomy, when it comes to the advancement of civil and political and economic rights. I know very well that the other side never gives up.
"They are relentless in their view of what is a properly constructed society, and in that view, white men are at the very top and nobody else is even close."

Clinton's observations are once again correct. Unfortunately, her recent comments also reveal how many other members of the American political class have failed to accurately describe the Republican Party and the neofascist movement.

Today's Republican Party is in fact a right-wing extremist organization, and fascist in all but name. Its followers and voters embrace and act upon those values and beliefs. To claim that there is some other Republican Party, somehow separate and distinct from right-wing extremism — as too many commentators and political observers do — is to assert a difference that does not substantively exist. Ultimately, Hillary Clinton's Guardian interview makes clear that she too fails to consistently and accurately describe the party that she warned us about five years ago.

Why does this error keep recurring? The American political class is emotionally, psychologically and professionally invested in the idea of "normal politics," and a belief that our system and its governing institutions will survive all possible challenges.

That is an illusion. The Age of Trump and the ascendance of American neofascism represents the old order being cast aside and replaced by something different — in this case, something dreadful. Hillary Clinton and so many other American political insiders are deeply invested in the familiar, nostalgia-colored mores of American politics. To acknowledge the existential threat of the Jim Crow Republicans and the Trumpist movement is too traumatic and terrifying for the political class to properly contemplate. Indifference, fantasy and soothing lies about how everything will inevitably be OK in America appear to offer a much easier path than doing the difficult and dangerous work required to save American democracy.

The slippage of language and its attempt to normalize the American fascist movement and Republican Party's assaults on democracy will soon lead to ridiculous claims by the American commentariat and larger political class — if this hasn't happened already — about a distinction between violent fascists and extremists and those who wear nice suits and prefer to operate without bloodshed. We can negotiate with the "reasonable" fascists, we will surely be told, in the interests of "consensus" and "bipartisanship."

But in fact, words have actual meanings. Fascism cannot be separated from violence, and it is incoherent beyond its fantasies of dominance and power and its desire to vanquish democracy and the truth. In the final analysis, there is no way to negotiate with fascists, because for them victory is all that matters. Reasonable compromise with such a force in a liberal democratic society is impossible, and any quest for it amounts to surrender.

America's political elites remain deeply and compulsively attached to the dream, hope and delusion that "traditional" Republicans will soon salvage the Republican Party and make it respectable and honorable again. In fact, the Republican Party's "honorable" past is greatly exaggerated. Supposedly "reasonable" Republicans may have backed away from Donald Trump's most egregious efforts to overturn the 2020 election, but they supported almost all of his policy goals.They were fully complicit, in other words, with his personal and political evil and destruction.

Donald Trump and his followers are now purging those remaining Republican politicians who are deemed to be traitors or otherwise disloyal to the movement.

While some establishment Democrats, such as President Biden, cling to outmoded notions of bipartisan compromise, numerous prominent former Republicans — including Tom Nichols, Steve Schmidt, Richard Painter and Max Boot — have warned that their onetime political home cannot be salvaged and must be burned down or completely rebuilt if American democracy is to be saved. These former Republicans are experts on the monster they helped to birth and sustain.

Political scientists and other researchers have repeatedly documented the decades-long drift from a median point of consensus, where there was considerable overlap between more liberal Republicans and more conservative Democrats on basic questions of public policy, to the present, when the Republican Party is far outside the mainstream of American politics.

Today's Republican Party has more in common with neofascist political parties in Hungary, Poland, Turkey or Brazil than it does with mainstream democratic parties in advanced Western democracies. Public opinion polls and other research have also made clear that the Trump-controlled Republican Party is a personality cult. Its leaders and followers now embrace terrorism and other forms of political violence, as shown by their response to the events of Jan. 6 and Trump's attempted coup.

Other research has shown that white supremacist views are the most important predictor of support for Trump and the Republicans, and that ordinary Republican voters have been almost fully propagandized into believing Trump's Big Lie about the 2020 election — and the many little lies that support it.

In her seminal 1951 book "The Origins of Totalitarianism", Hannah Arendt offered the following description of how fascist-totalitarian movements such as Hitler's Nazi Party were organized:

All the extraordinarily manifold parts of the movement: the front organizations, the various professional societies, the party-membership, the party hierarchy, the elite formations and police groups, are related in such a way that each forms the facade in one direction and the center in the other, that is, plays the role of normal outside world for one layer and the role of radical extremism for another….
The great advantage of this system is that the movement provides for each of its layers, even under conditions of totalitarian rule, the fiction of a normal world along with a consciousness of being different from and more radical than it. Thus, the sympathizers of the front organizations, whose convictions differ only in intensity from those of the party membership, surround the whole movement and provide a deceptive facade of normality to the outside world because of their lack of fanaticism and extremism while, at the same time, they represent the normal world to the totalitarian movement whose members come to believe that their convictions differ only in degree from those of other people, so that they need never be aware of the abyss which separates their own world from that which actually surrounds it. The onion structure makes the system organizationally shock-proof against the factuality of the real world.

Arendt's description is a perfect fit for today's Republican Party and neofascist movement. It is past time for America's political class and the Fourth Estate, which claims to be a defender of American democracy, to use more accurate language and call this moment and movement what it is. To avoid doing that, out of some misguided impulse toward civility, is to do the work of aiding and abetting the fascist attack on American democracy and society.

Today's Republican Party is using fascism to create a new 21st century American apartheid. With all due respect to Hillary Clinton, who tried to warn us, we must not mince words. Let us call such an abomination what it truly is.

The new 'revelations' about Trump are an indictment of the American political class

At times during the last five or so years, some of us have been living in the future. Sometimes just a day or two, but at other times it has felt like a week or perhaps even a month. During rare moments of immense clarity, it's like being in a time warp, a year or two ahead of the rest of the world.

I'm talking about those of us, both with and without prominent public platforms, who have consistently sounded the alarm about Trumpism, American neofascism and the escalating crises to come. We were mostly ignored, and sometimes mocked and derided. The truth, one suspects, was too painful to accept for those Americans who for reasons of self-interest, cowardice, willful ignorance or indifference found it convenient to ignore our warnings.

It's clear that far too many Americans held tightly to the illusion of "normalcy" and a naive faith in the "institutions" of democracy. That was a bit like trying to hold onto a life preserver in a hurricane.

For those who have understood the rising tides of American neofascism and the associated evils of Trump and his movement, the entire experience has often felt futile and frustrating. So why do we persist?

I can speak only for myself. Black Americans have many checks paid to us by American society — figuratively stuffed into our pockets and wallets, or hidden in shoeboxes or mattresses — marked with the words "insufficient funds." America's democracy is a work in progress; Black people are arguably its main architects and caretakers. Black folks have saved America from its own worse impulses many times over. That relationship is emotionally, physically and financially abusive. But we soldier on loving this country, because it is our own and we have built it with our stolen labor, creativity, genius, suffering, loss and pain.

As James Baldwin explained, "I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually." I take that wisdom as my motivation when I feel my energy beginning to wane.

We of the Cassandra coalition warned that Donald Trump and his movement would bring destruction to the United States. We were correct.

We warned that Trump and his movement would cause pain and ruin that few could imagine possible in the "greatest country on Earth." We were correct.

We warned that Trump had shown himself to be a mentally unstable white supremacist enamored of violence, and that his evil pathologies would infect an entire country. We were correct again.

We warned that Trump was clearly a fascist and an authoritarian, as well as a malignant narcissist and perhaps even a sociopath or psychopath who feels no loyalty to anyone but himself. We were repeatedly proven to be correct.

We told you that Trump, the Republican Party and their followers posed an existential threat to America democracy. I hardly need to belabor the point

In too many ways, Trump and the larger white right's antisocial and destructive behavior has become so normalized that the continuous "revelations" about the criminal aberrations of the Trump regime are losing their power to move the public and the political class. This is a classic example of the rule of diminishing returns, but it does not make what has been unleashed by the Age of Trump any less dangerous.

As reported by CNN and other media outlets, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's new book about the presidential transition period, "Peril," reveals that Donald Trump was so out of control, dangerous and apparently unhinged after his defeat last November that Gen. Mark Milley and other senior military and civilian leaders made a sort of private pact to protect America and the world from him.

"Peril" details that after Trump's coup attempt and his followers' attack on the Capitol, Milley "felt no absolute certainty that the military could control or trust Trump and believed it was his job as the senior military officer to think the unthinkable and take any and all necessary precautions." Milley described those days after Jan. 6 as the "absolute darkest moment of theoretical possibility."

Woodward and Costa also report that Milley spoke to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who agreed that Trump was "crazy" and had been so "for a long time." It's hardly a secret that Trump is widely viewed as mentally unstable by Washington insiders and the political class, including members of his own party.

Milley and other national security officials were concerned that Trump would use the country's military, up to and including nuclear weapons, to start a war with China or Iran. The results would have been immensely damaging to world peace in security, at the very least, and could have led to a cataclysm. To prevent such an outcome, Milley reached out to the senior commander of the Chinese military to reassure him that the situation was under control and Trump would not be allowed to do something reckless.

Around the same time, then-CIA Director Gina Haspel reportedly told Milley, "We are on the way to a right-wing coup. The whole thing is insanity. He is acting out like a six-year-old with a tantrum."

In so many ways, these "revelations" about Trump and his regime's misdeeds are like the picture on the front of a jigsaw puzzle box. We know what the final image will look like, but still need to put together the pieces. So the end result is something of an anticlimax.

Most important, perhaps, that picture is a damning portrait of America's political class. As a group, its members understood that Donald Trump and his regime were an existential threat to American democracy. For various reasons, they did little or nothing about it.

Of course, most leading Republicans were complicit, if not active conspirators, with Donald Trump and his malevolent plots. But senior Democrats also knew of Trump's dangers to American democracy and society. Like President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland today, they did not act with any urgency to investigate and prosecute Trump and his Republican confederates, or to hold them accountable for their crimes against democracy and the American people.

Many journalists and others in the news media likewise understood that Trump and his regime were immensely dangerous to democracy, the rule of law, the Constitution and American society. Again, too many of them chose to stay silent or to speak of such things only indirectly or through euphemism.

Much the same can be said of America's national security officials. There were certainly honorable whistleblowers, but there were not enough of them, nor did they sound the call clearly enough. Courage was in short supply when the country most needed it.

The coroner's report on American democracy will list many causes of death. Near the top of that list will be a failure of political and moral leadership.

As the Trumpist movement escalates its assault on American democracy and society, the country's political and leadership class cannot reasonably claim the defense of ignorance, or protest that this was all so "unprecedented" and came as a total surprise.

America in the Age of Trump and beyond is like a darker version of the famous folk tale about the Boy Who Cried Wolf. But in this 21st century dystopian version of that classic story, the boy is an adult, and he was telling the truth about the wolf — or rather the pack of wolves, which has begun attacking and eating the villagers. Instead of fighting back or defending themselves, the townspeople and their leaders just look away and go about their daily business, having convinced themselves that ignoring the wolves will somehow keep them safe. Once the wolves' bellies are full, they reason, they won't eat anyone else and will wander away, and gradually life will get back to "normal." But there is no normal to get back to, and the wolves cannot be so easily satisfied. That story does not end well for the village and its people.

Founder of Poor People's Campaign says there was a key mistake in the fight against Trump

The Republican Party is currently trying to inject lethal poison into America's body politic in a systematic effort to prevent Black and brown people, and other core Democratic constituencies, from voting. It has become clear that today's Republicans actively view majoritarian democracy as their enemy. It is no exaggeration to say that fascism, white identity politics and white supremacy are being deployed to create a 21st-century American apartheid.

In fact, the Republican goal goes beyond entrenched minority rule by whites. More specifically, it envisions a nation dominated by a white male plutocracy in which Christian nationalism and authoritarianism are protected by law and where property will always be valued above human rights and human dignity. Resistance and other forms of dissent will de facto become illegal. In this context, "centrist" Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin must be seen as collaborators in the Republican assault on democracy.

It is also true that the Republican Party is poisoning American society through its willful negligence regarding the coronavirus pandemic, which has now killed at least 670,000 people in the United States. While the Biden administration has done a remarkable job in promoting vaccines and other efforts to defeat the pandemic, its efforts are being systematically sabotaged by its political opponents. It is now estimated that at least one of every 500 Americans has died of COVID-19, and public health experts agree that a large proportion of those deaths could have been prevented.

COVID has been especially devastating for Black people, Latinos and Native Americans, as well as older people and those with disabilities or pre-existing illness. In total, the American people have lost many millions of years of life because of this plague.

If American democracy were a patient, its current status would be critical and unstable. To heal and recover will require more than treating the evident symptoms, but also confronting the deeper ailments that afflict our nation.

To discuss those questions and much more, I recently spoke with the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president and senior lecturer at Repairers of the Breach. He is also the architect of the Forward Together Moral Movement, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign and author of several books, including his most recent, "We Are Called to Be a Movement." He is a frequent guest on CNN, ABC and MSNBC as well as Democracy Now! His essays and other writing have been featured in leading publications, including the Washington Post and the New York Times.

In this conversation, Rev. Barber explains that America's crises of democracy, racism, poverty, wealth and income inequality, religious nationalism, ecological collapse and more must be confronted in a holistic and systemic fashion if the country is to be rehabilitated and transformed. Barber argues that it was a mistake focusing too much on Donald Trump as an individual, rather than the ways his rise to power and the emergence of an American fascist movement revealed a much deeper and older disease.

He also warns that Republican attacks on Black and brown people's voting rights (and civil rights more broadly) are a weapon used to damage the progressive cause and hurt Americans on both sides of the color line. Barber urges the Democrats to find their moral principles and stand up for the average American, especially the poor and working classes, instead of becoming obsessed with public opinion polls, "bipartisanship", and seeking compromise with the evident evil embodied by today's Republican Party.

This conversation has been edited, as usual, for length and clarity.

People are feeling exhausted by the Republican Party's torrent of attacks on democracy and society. What would you tell those folks about staying motivated and fighting off despair?

As you know, the infamous Dred Scott ruling deemed that a Black man has no rights that a white man ever has to respect. Frederick Douglass was asked two months after that to speak to an abolitionist group. People were depressed and not sure of what to do next. Frederick Douglass didn't lie. He said, this is bad, this is monstrous. Douglass also said, the courts are against us, the magistrates are against us. But that is just one side of the story. Douglass continued, saying that every attempt to stop the abolitionist movement has only served to embolden and intensify our agitation. The fight is not off, the fight is on.

Right now, what I see too much of is an unwillingness to fight, a type of acceptance of the situation. I was asked on "Morning Joe," what if I go to West Virginia and push Sen. Manchin, and we lose the next election there? I responded, "Why do you all start with, 'What if you lose?'" What if you inspire the hundreds of thousands of poor, low-wealth people in that state who are not voting? Have you seen how many of those voters there are in West Virginia? If you got those low-wealth, low-income voters, the Democrats could get a marginal victory.

It's not impossible to do, but you can't move them if you don't at least fight for fundamental things. For example, fighting for the $15 living wage, There has to be a return by the Democrats to a fundamental understanding that there are some things which are bigger than just the latest poll number. We must fight and win.

Jim and Jane Crow were not vanquished. Those demons are being summoned up and empowered by the Republican Party and their war on democracy, and specifically on Black and brown people's voting rights and human rights. If one lacks a historical perspective, this seems insurmountable. How do you reconcile the past and the present in terms of these struggles of justice?

First of all, we should have never suggested that if you get rid of Trump then you get rid of the problem. Donald Trump was not the problem; he was the symptom. Trump was the beneficiary of the Southern strategy, which was launched some 50 years ago by the Republicans. They decided that the way to win is to intentionally divide the country by making the Republican Party the party of white people who were angry about the victories of the civil rights movement.

Again, Donald Trump is more of a symptom of a larger problem. In that way, he is like the mucus that comes out of your nose when you have pneumonia.

To win, we need to move beyond isolating the problems facing this country. We need to focus on systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, denial of health care, the war economy and religious nationalism — all as one issue. In total, these are interlocking injustices.

The battle over voting rights and democracy we are experiencing right now should never have been discussed as a type of new Jim Crow. This is not Jim Crow. It is really "James Crow, Esquire." The same kinds of laws that were passed in Texas are being passed in West Virginia, where there are hardly any Black people. Racism is operative in the Republican Party's attacks on voting rights, but it is not just motivated by racism.

These new bills are being backed by the Koch brothers, among others. The goal here is to silence and shut down the progressive voice. The extremists who have hijacked the Republican Party by using "James Crow, Esquire" are looking at the long game. This is not just Jim Crow. Don't make this just a Black issue. Show the racist side of this issue that, yes, in Texas, they're trying to block people of color, but those laws are also going to hurt disabled people and women. In West Virginia they're doing the same thing, but the majority of people who are going to be hurt in that state are white, poor and low-wealth voters. This is an attack on democracy itself.

Why is there so much fear and refusal by too many to use the proper moral language, to speak the truth, about Trumpism, the Republicans and this attack on democracy? This is a moral struggle. There is so much cowardice. How do you maintain your moral clarity?

We do it by building a movement across the country, such as with the Poor People's Campaign and the national call for moral revival. We stay among the people who are most impacted, and they will keep the fight in you.

It's hard to not have courage when you're around people who fight every day, and they keep their courage. We saw this is in West Virginia at our anniversary caravan and gathering to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Battle for Blair Mountain, where Black and white miners fought together for their rights.

That's part of the problem for Democrats. They don't talk to the people. They talk about the people, they talk at the people, but they don't bring the people in. By comparison, we stay emboldened by staying clear on our moral foundations. Part of the problem is with language, "left versus right" and "moderate" and "conservative" is too puny. It's not about left versus right, it's about right versus wrong.

The second reason is that too many politicians are not really reading the Bible, the book they put their hands on when they were sworn into office. The Bible makes it very clear that some things are evil. For example, there are members of Congress and others in government who do not seem to realize how ugly it is to go to John Lewis' body, laying in state in the Rotunda — whether you are a Republican or a Democrat — and claim that you love him but then go and fight against everything he stood for.

Another example: Democrats and others have said what the Republicans are doing is the worst attack on voting rights since after the Civil War. Well, if it's the worst attack since the Civil War, how do you compromise on the solution?

If 700 people were dying every day from poverty before COVID, how do you not call that, to borrow from Dr. King, a form of government-sponsored murder? Poverty destroys lives. Poverty is not the result of the immoral actions of poor people. Poverty is the result of bad public policy.

What can the average American, everyday people, do in their daily lives to maintain clarity and struggle for justice?

When I tell folks to join the movement, I do not mean join an organization. You haven't heard me one time say that the Poor People's Campaign is an organization. That grows out of our way of organizing, which is modeled on the Reconstruction movement of the 19th century.

You are part of a movement when you agree with the core principles and incorporate the struggle into your life. In essence, the movement becomes your meditation. The movement becomes your courage, hooking up with other people becomes your strength. It becomes your day-to-day activity. It is not just participating in a march.

Learning from American history, the 1963 March on Washington happened because there were 400 or 500 cities where people were already engaged and involved in activities such as civil disobedience. Many folks forget that at the end of the 1963 march, Martin Luther King said, "Go back." Folks remember "I have a dream," but King finished with, "Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back, go back, go back. Go back, keep fighting."

When we summon moral language and describe our struggle as a moral movement, what we are really saying is that this is why I'm alive. This is what's going to get me up in the morning, not my alarm clock. This is what my life purpose is. You don't fight systems on your own. You don't try to figure out what you can do by yourself. "We" is the most important word in the justice vocabulary. It's not what I can do, it's what we can do.

America feels like it is about to burst. There is something profoundly wrong in American society right now. So many forces of destruction and evil and other troubles are coming together and there has been no closure.

Well it is. There can't be any closure until we face it. It can't be. This is not new to this society. Imagine Black slaves year after year with no closure. One of the things we have to realize is that this is not new in the American reality, but what is also not new in the American reality is people who find, in the midst of those moments, their purpose and their courage.

My question is, can America survive? Can America survive with over 87 million people uninsured or underinsured? Can America survive with these fundamental attacks on democracy? America is already to some degree an oligarchy. Decisions are being made by money in politics rather than the votes of people. We are about to burst, and we are bursting.

Now the question is, where's the energy going to go? Because it's going somewhere. And it is always when a nation is about to burst that moral movements are birthed. If you do not have the moral movements, then that energy can go in directions that are utterly destructive. But that bursting can also be a birthing. As has been explained to me, when a woman has a baby, it is the most critical time between life and death, and the most creative time.

Is this moment in America going to be a tomb or a womb? Is it going to be the burying of democracy, or is it going to be the birthing of a new freedom?

The Supreme Court's late-night eviction decision was no anomaly — it's part of a blitzkrieg against democracy

Last Thursday night, the Republican-dominated Supreme Court decided to literally throw thousands of Americans into the streets by ending the Biden administration's moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus pandemic. This is a manmade humanitarian disaster, in which millions of people could be rendered homeless during a plague and a devastated economy.

Meanwhile, a local school board in Waukesha, Wisconsin, decided it would no longer feed poor students meals for free, "citing a desire to return to pre-pandemic operations," as the Washington Post reports. One board member "said the free program made it easy for families to 'become spoiled,'" while an assistant superintendent said "there could be a 'slow addiction' to the service."

In this moment I will add my voice to the chorus: "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

This is still more proof that cruelty is the creed of today's Republican Party and "conservative" movement. Once again, the Republican Party has shown itself to be the greatest threat to the well-being of the United States and the world. In total, today's Republican Party and right-wing movement are anti-human and sociopathic.

The effect of the decades-long right-wing assaults on society and the very idea of the common good is to create a state of confusion, exhaustion, trauma and learned helplessness. The problems become so large and unmanageable that resistance feels futile.

Moreover, Trumpism, like other forms of fascism, creates a type of malignant normality and state of unreality in which social and political deviance is normalized, truth no longer exists (or at least no longer matters), and many people surrender to a type of nihilism and generalized dread, concluding that "nothing really matters anymore anyway."

Writing at Polity, social theorist David Theo Goldberg cites the philosopher Kierkegaard's essay on dread, which he "attributed to the concern that one could no longer unquestioningly resort to God as fixed moral guide and predictable arbiter." Conditions today are different, as Goldberg notes:

Dread implies a malaise, at least, a deep and pervasive dis-ease, at worst. It signals a widespread social unsettlement, an unbounded and uncontainable anxiety. …

Some of the apparent prompts of dread today are easily discernible. The unsettling Trump years are credited with being the defining impetus. Brexit, not unrelatedly, would be another. One can broaden these socially engulfing events, in many ways suffocating for broad swathes of people even as they continue to animate disruptive support in other quarters. Both Trumpism and Brexit exemplified and reinforced the rapid rise of authoritarian political cultures across significant regions of the world. But the authoritarianisms that seemed to be taking hold, the unhinged statements and expressions, the unlimited and increasingly violent attacks on people and political structures are more symptomatic or expressive of dread than the driving causes, even as they have served to exacerbate the affective state. The underlying causes are deeper, structurally more pervasive and difficult to address.

Perhaps even more troubling in this time of crisis is the way time itself feels broken. In such a state, many Americans and others feel unmoored, pushed and pulled from one crisis and horrible revelation to another, with no grand narrative or satisfactory explanation offered by the country's leaders or the once-trusted voices of the mainstream news media.

In many ways, the contemporary right and its social Darwinist death-cult worldview are extensions of the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Jim Crow Republicans and other racial authoritarians are eager to return America to (at least) the 1950s, an era when nonwhite people, women and other marginalized groups are erased from civic and public life, except in roles of (imagined) overt subservience to white men in particular.

The United States is now in a 21st-century Gilded Age, where plutocrats and corporations dominate politics and society as a whole, behaving like social parasites with no sense of obligation to others. These plutocrats and kleptocrats are expanding their financial dynasties while many Americans — perhaps almost a majority — exist in a state of permanent economic precarity.

In this new Gilded Age, 21st-century robber barons are blasting themselves into space, profiteering from the pandemic, avoiding most or all taxation and expanding their wealth and income at heretofore unfathomable rates.

In reality, none of this is new or a revelation. Fascists and other anti-democratic forces win by inflicting a type of functional amnesia on the public. The Supreme Court's decision to throw people out into the streets and the Waukesha County's school board's decision are a continuation of the anti-poor laws that were common in the United States and Europe for centuries. That inhumane energy is also being summoned up today in laws that ban sleeping in public, deem it illegal to sleep in one's car and force homeless and other indigent and poor people out of public spaces.

America's jails and prisons have become de facto poorhouses where many thousands of people exist in legal limbo because they cannot pay small cash bail amounts.

Charles Pierce of Esquire points out the cruelty and routine evil:

Spoiled, on one free meal a day?

Addicted, on some free mac-and-cheese?

Who thinks like this?

No, don't answer that. I've heard it all before. It was the central article of faith for Reaganites, for Paul Ryan, and for every conservative skinflint back to Andrew Mellon. It's the philosophy that kept the Heritage Society alive long enough to start ratfcking the federal courts and national elections. It's what made Ebenezer Scrooge inquire about the state of the prisons and workhouses. It's what made two million Irishmen leave their home country behind between 1845 and 1849. It's a song that never dies. Cruelty always has been the point.

Ultimately, Pierce is describing an entire social, political and legal system created by the very rich and other elites to serve their own interests. Neoliberalism (which is better described as "gangster capitalism") and fascism are intertwined with one another: Together they create an irresistible wave that drowns a democracy and its citizens. For those caught in the wave, survival is all that matters. Other possibilities are erased.

But there are in fact alternatives — if the American people are brave enough to reach for them.

In his 1944 State of the Union address, Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined what would become known as the Second Bill of Rights. It included:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

In his new book "American Oligarchy," commentator and cultural critic Thom Hartmann offers this context:

Today, while most of the developed world has all of these as rights guaranteed by their governments, America still denies them to the majority of our citizens. You and I don't have these things because America's oligarchs have decided that it's not in their interest for us to have them.

Better alternatives are possible if the American people are willing to make sacrifices and do the hard and dangerous work to force such a world into being. In fact, public opinion polls show that these proposals and similar social-democratic reforms are increasingly popular among the American people – especially young people. Hartmann continues:

The COVID-19 crisis and the 2020 George Floyd murder, with the anti-racism uprising that followed, have laid bare the brutality of conservative economic and social policies, letting us all see how the oligarchs in this country really feel about the rest of us.

To seriously begin the process of taking away their nearly absolute power, we need a newly empowered middle class that enjoys the safety and stability that come from government meeting these basic human needs.

Hope can be a futile, pitiful, self-defeating and dangerous thing – if it is not accompanied by action. And action will be required to defeat Trumpism, the Republican Party and the neofascist movement.

Unfortunately, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party are still not acting with the necessary urgency of now.

When leaders fail, it is up to the people to show them the way. Too many Americans still want other people to do the hard work at this moment of profound existential crisis. That will not work. If the question is who can save democracy, the answer is looking back at them in the mirror.

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